Fox Pulls Channels From Cablevision

News Corp.'s Fox pulled its channels off Cablevision early Saturday after the companies' programming deal expired and negotiations for a new one stalled, threatening broadcasts of baseball playoffs for some 3 million Cablevision subscribers in New York and Philadelphia.

News Corp.’s Fox pulled its channels off Cablevision early Saturday after the companies’ programming deal expired and negotiations for a new one stalled, threatening broadcasts of baseball playoffs for some 3 million Cablevision subscribers in New York and Philadelphia.

The blackout affects Fox 5 and My9 in New York and Fox29 in Philadelphia. Subscribers also lose access to cable channels Fox Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes.

The channels went dark when the programming deal expired 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.

The impasse means the 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, when the Phillies take the field against the Giants on Saturday night.

Cablevision called on News Corp. to put Fox5 and My9 back on Cablevision immediately and submit to binding arbitration under a neutral third party.

“News Corp.’s decision to remove Fox programming from 3 million Cablevision households is a black eye for broadcast television in America,” Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler said.


Fox released a statement blaming Cablevision for the impasse.

“In an effort to avoid this very situation, we started this process in May and made numerous reasonable proposals to Cablevision,” said Mike Hopkins, president of Fox Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing. “However, we remain far apart and Cablevision has made it clear that they do not share our view regarding the value of Fox’s networks.”

FCC Chairman  Julius Genachowski issued a statement in which he said: “I am disappointed that Fox and Cablevision have not found a way to ensure that consumers could enjoy uninterrupted carriage of Fox broadcast stations on Cablevision systems

“Each year, thousands of agreements between broadcasters and pay TV providers are reached without interruption of customer viewing. I remain hopeful that these two companies will do what is in the best interest of consumers and find a way quickly to resolve their differences. While federal law provides that the terms will be set by agreement between private companies, Fox and Cablevision share responsibility for protecting their audience’s interests. I expect both companies to live up to this responsibility.”

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 the three cable channels and three TV stations.

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.

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 in a statement.

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 called for arbitration so viewers wouldn’t have their TV programming disrupted.

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

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.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., had 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.

Associated Press writer Tom McElroy contributed to this report.

Comments (5)

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Christina Perez says:

October 16, 2010 at 11:16 am

Another good reason for the public to demand that Major League Baseball, as a matter of tradition and public service, make available to free, over-the-air television all post-season games, not just the World Series. If MLB cared about fans, it would ensure that games affected by rights disputes go to broadcast as a condition of carriage.

Mitch keegan says:

October 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Funny, FOX made it seem like Cablevision was pulling them. I see no reason FOX should not be compensated other NY stations are being paid and Cablevision is charging customers for FOX. I wonder if Cablevision will be providing credit for lost programming?

Dante Betteo says:

October 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Well Locally in NY and in Philly, pull out the DTV converter box and white it directly.

Warren Harmon says:

October 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

The answer is BROADCAST DTV, get out the antennas and let the broadcasters do what they do best.

Government should have NO say in the matter; the agreements are between two companies and no others! Cable consumers are a responsibility of the cable company to decide if they want to retain those customers. The customers have other options like TV Antennas and owning ATSC capable television sets or converter boxes.

Where in the constitution does it say that the Government is responsible in guaranteeing a product is available to every consumer? Traditionally the government interferes and only guarantees that certain products are NOT available to the public at large.

BTW; A different point of view:

If it is broadcast over the air for free through the marketing of commercial advertisement, why does a cable company have to pay to put it on a LOCAL cable system that covers a broadcasters RF footprint?

It seems like greed or complacency has set into some broadcasters, “money for nothing” so to speak. A new age idea that they can sell something regardless of the quality, in other words “to hell with trying to be number one” in the market to gain better advertisement revenue. It makes no sense that a broadcaster would want to loose viewers in their broadcast area that lack an antenna. Are not advertising rates based on station viewer ship anymore? This also means that Cable companies MUST NOT have the right to strip a broadcaster’s commercials out or alter the broadcaster’s content in any way.

It is a whole different story for original programming that is NOT broadcast; it should be paid for by the entities that resell it such as cable and satellite companies.

kendra campbell says:

October 17, 2010 at 9:14 am

All this greed has resulted in cable/satellite bills that are insane. We are in the middle of the worst economic situation since the great depression and all parties are acting like it’s “happy days”. The public is fed up, and meanwhile the cable companies, national and local broadcasters are partying like it’s 1999. Pathetic.