Cablevision agrees to play ball with Fox


After Games #1 and #2 of the World Series (not that there were any New York teams playing this year) were denied to some three million Cablevision subscribers, a deal was struck with News Corporation to restore the Fox O&O stations to the MSO’s systems just in time for Game #3 on Saturday evening. Even so, Cablevision is still complaining that it was victimized by the government’s retransmission consent law.

“In the absence of any meaningful action from the FCC, Cablevision has agreed to pay Fox an unfair price for multiple channels of its programming including many in which our customers have little or no interest.  Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see,” Cablevision said in a statement announcing the settlement after just under a half month without any of the News Corporation broadcast and cable channels on its systems.

“Cablevision thanks its customers for understanding the reasons for the dispute and for staying with us. We are also grateful to the 175 government leaders who raised their voices to urge government intervention and binding arbitration to prevent this blackout. It is clear the retransmission consent system is badly broken and needs to be fixed,” Cablevision insisted in Saturday evening’s announcement.

“In the end, our customers will pay more than they should for Fox programming, but less than they would have if we had accepted the unprecedented rates News Corp. was demanding when they pulled their channels off Cablevision,” the MSO charged.

In a departure from most such settlements, the two parties did not issue a joint press release. Rather, Cablevision issued its statement complaining about retrans and News Corporation’s Fox Networks unit issued its own much shorter statement about the deal.

“Fox Networks and Cablevision announced today that they have reached an agreement in principle for a new distribution agreement to provide more than 3 million households with programming from WNYW FOX5 and WWOR My9 in New York, WTXF FOX29 in Philadelphia, and the cable channels FOX Deportes, FOX Business Network, and Nat Geo WILD. The signals for all stations and cable channels were restored Saturday prior to the first pitch of World Series Game 3 on FOX. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed,” Fox Networks said.

The Fox-Cablevision settlement came just hours after another settlement was announced by Fox and Dish Network. That agreement avoided any disruption of Fox O&O stations on the satellite TV system, but restored some Fox cable networks to its service after a few days of disruption.

RBR-TVBR observation: Note to the Dolans – it is called the free market system. It works. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski deserves a round of applause for doing his job as spelled out by Congress and refusing to be drawn into what was a business negotiation with no need of government interference. Cablevision is clearly wrong. And that is proved by its own words: “Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see.” The retransmission system is just fine and is working exactly as it is supposed to.