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So much for like father like son at Cablevision Systems

September 17, 2010 |  8:43 am

There seems to be a difference of opinion at the top of Cablevision Systems Corp., one of the nation's largest pay-TV distributors with systems serving primarily New York City and Long Island.

JIMDOLAN Speaking earlier this week at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch media conference, Cablevision Chief Executive James Dolan warned of the chaos that would hit the cable industry and consumers if the business moved toward a system in which people could pick the channels they want on an individual basis.

"The impact of 'a la carte' on the programming industry would be devastating, so it behooves everyone to exercise some restraint," Dolan said. 

Most of the industry feels the same way. Programmers think that if the industry moved to a so-called a la carte approach, their costs would go up. For example, if a cable network that is currently in 90 million homes was suddenly only in half as many homes, it would have to raise what it charges distributors to maintain the same level of programming.

CHUCKDOLAN But Dolan's father, Cablevision Founder and Chairman Charles Dolan, is one of the few in the industry who does not quake in his boots over the idea of a la carte. A few years ago, Charles Dolan went so far as to issue a statement in support of the idea, which was advocated by former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin.

"Cablevision agrees with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's assertion before the Senate Commerce Committee on Nov. 29 that the opportunity to purchase programming on an a la carte basis would be in the best interests of consumers," Dolan said in 2005. "Like chairman Martin, we do not believe in the long term that selling programming a la carte will be detrimental to either programmers or cable operators."

This should make for interesting conversation around the Dolan dinner table.

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Top: Jim Dolan. Evan Agostini/Getty Images. Bottom: Chuck Dolan. Credit: Peter Foley/Bloomberg News