Cablevision-Fox Dispute Could Hurt Baseball Fans

BETHPAGE, NY (AP/WCBS 880/1010 WINS) – Cablevision customers missed part of the Oscars this year because of a broadcasting fee dispute. Are the baseball playoffs next?

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports

By the time the Phillies take the field against the Giants on Saturday night, baseball fans hope a programming dispute between Fox and Cablevision will be only a distant memory.

Both companies are digging in ahead of the expiration of their programming deal just after midnight Friday. Such deals spell out how much a cable TV system pays the broadcaster to carry its signals over the cable lineup.

Usually, disputes over carriage fees get resolved at the last minute. But if the standoff continues, some 3 million Cablevision subscribers, mostly in the New York area but also in Philadelphia, could lose access to Game 1 of Major League Baseball’s National League Championship Series.

In separate fee disputes this year, Cablevision customers have experienced brief blackouts of The Walt Disney Co.’s ABC broadcast signal and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.’s Food Network and HGTV. Subscribers missed the first 15 minutes of the Oscars in the ABC dispute.

Cablevision Systems Corp. has said News Corp.’s Fox is making “outrageous fee demands” for the right to carry the signals of three cable channels and three TV stations. The stations whose signals are in jeopardy are Fox5 and My9 in New York and Fox29 in Philadelphia. Subscribers could also lose access to cable channels Fox Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes.

Cablevision says it pays $70 million a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those in dispute, and that News Corp. is now asking for more than $150 million a year for the same programming. It said Thursday that it is willing to submit to binding arbitration and called on Fox not to pull the plug.

“While we would rather come to terms directly with News Corp., binding arbitration may be the best and fairest way to resolve this matter,” Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler said in a statement.

Fox rejected the call for arbitration, saying the process would “reward Cablevision for refusing to negotiate fairly.”

“Direct business-to-business negotiation is the only way to resolve this issue,” it said.

While Fox didn’t dispute Cablevision’s claims, it called Cablevision “hypocritical” because it pays more for two of its sister company channels, MSG and MSG Plus, than it does for all 12 Fox channels. MSG and MSG Plus are owned by Madison Square Garden Inc., which like Cablevision is controlled by the Dolan family.

Lawmakers have begun to speak up on the issue, including Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who have called for arbitration so viewers won’t have their TV programming disrupted.

Israel asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in the dispute, he said in a statement Friday.

The FCC encouraged the two parties to agree to binding arbitration without suspending service and did not specify a mediator, according to Jack Pratt, a spokesman for the Long Island congressman.

“As the federal agency with jurisdiction to protect consumers interests in these types of disputes, I appreciate the FCC’s commitment to keep the pressure on both parties to come to the table without disrupting services,” Israel said.

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg urged both sides to extend negotiations.

“New Jersey consumers do not deserve to be treated as pawns in this dispute,” he said in a statement.

Rebecca Arbogast, a managing director at brokerage Stifel Nicolaus, said News Corp. and other broadcast company owners risk political intervention if they keep pushing carriage deals to the brink.

“The more that programming disputes escalate and signals get pulled … the more pressure we believe there will be on the (Federal Communications Commission) and Congress to do something to prevent such consumer disruptions,” she wrote in a research note Thursday.

In a separate dispute with satellite TV company Dish Network Corp., Fox cut access on Oct. 1 to 19 regional sports networks, FX and the National Geographic Channel for some 14.3 million Dish subscribers. That fight foreshadows more tough negotiations, as the deal for Fox broadcast signals on Dish expires Oct. 31.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

More from Paul Murnane

One Comment

  1. wes says:

    I say DROP FOX.
    Fox channels are commercial channels, they make money from advertising. They should be paying to cable providers to carry their channels so that we the viewers can see them, and fox can continue charging for advertising.

  2. Artie says:

    Try switching to verizon FIOS. They have no disputes with any channels and the service is far above what is offered by cablevision. And by the way it’s usually cheaper than cable too.

  3. Angel Rodriguez says:

    I watch FOX 5 all the time. I watch Fringe on Thursdays, The Giants on Sundays, and the news at 10 twice a week. Both Fox and Cablevision are hurting us viewers and make us pay dearly. I rather buy a digital antenna, watch Fox shows on hulu and listen to Giants games on WFAN. This is b.s., if you know what I mean.

  4. steven says:

    Read a book, or a newspaper, or play with your children, then there will be that much less for them to fight about.

  5. Francine Shipley says:

    Cable is for pu$$ies. Use an antenna.

  6. cubbybear317 says:

    Nothing is fair about Fox. And as for the balanced…off balance is more like it. FOX = crooks and cronies.

  7. Mike says:

    So hard to decide who to root against: Cablevision, which destroyed the Knicks and Rangers or Fox which wants to raise my cable rates.

    If the FCC wanted to do something useful they would pass a regulation providing a cooling down period and mandatory arbitration in situations like this.

  8. bxbomber says:

    Cablevision may be an evil entity but they are right on this one. I think i am signing up with dish network who refuses to bow to right wing fox news channel.

  9. chris says:

    Cablevision always seems to have problems with tv networks as this has happened many times with cablevision, but the other cable providers do not. Cablevision is badly organized and mismanaged just like the team they own the New York Knicks

  10. Jon says:

    Isn’t FOX 5 a free channel? Meaning, even if I do not have cable I can watch it? Why are they charging the cable/sat. companies at all? Isn’t the money the charge advertisers enough?

  11. Devenio says:

    I wish I could get rid of Fox. Dump the both of these greedy companies.

    1. steven says:

      I assume that your television gets more than 1 channel. If you don’t like FOX then may I suggest you change the channel.
      It may be less formal than our process for electing governmental officials, but rest assured the networks and the advertisers are listening to your selections.
      Slightly different topic, the teams that we support aren’t actually composed of members of our communities. They do not represent the localities that present them. They are just the best talent the local team/franchise owners could afford. Why do we even care which ‘team’ wins? They have no relationship to us. They do not represent us. They are talented athletes, but their skills do not represent the skills of our locals. (We cannot take pride from their accomplishments, on the plus side we need not be disgrace by their failures.)

Comments are closed.

More From CBS New York

Get Our Morning Briefs

Watch & Listen LIVE