The first public indication of movement in the ongoing retransmission stalemate between Cablevision and Fox has been made: Cablevision has offered a one-year contract for Fox O&Os WNYW-Fox 5 New York and WTXF-Fox 29 Philadelphia on the same terms Fox is getting from Time Warner Cable. Fox said the offer ignored the entire program package, called it yet another publicity stunt and turned it down. Meanwhile, Cablevision criticized the FCC for not getting involved in the matter.
“In the interest of Cablevision’s 3 million households and our mutual viewers, today we have made a new offer to News Corp.,” said Cablevision in a statement. “Simply put: we agree to pay the rate Fox charges Time Warner Cable for carriage of WNYW-Fox 5 New York and WTXF-Fox 29 Philadelphia for a period of one year. This is higher than the rate we pay any other New York broadcast station. This solution is in the best interest of not only baseball fans but of all Cablevision customers and Fox viewers. We look forward to a positive response.”
The positive response was not to be. Fox stated, “We remain committed to negotiating a fair deal with Cablevision, but today’s incomplete proposal is not acceptable. Cablevision is seeking a discounted “package rate” without buying the entire package. We have told Cablevision all along we are willing to negotiate a deal – based on an entire suite of channels – under the terms we have reached with Time Warner Cable and other providers, or a stand alone agreement for WNYW FOX5, WTXF FOX29 and WWOR My9. Cablevision’s offer – sent to the press just as it was provided to us – is yet another in a long line of publicity stunts.”
Cablevision has been actively attempting to enlist the aid of the FCC in resolving the dispute, which resulted in a rebuke from the Commission, asking that Cablevision cease “stunting” and get back to the negotiating table.
Commenting on that development, Cablevision’s Charles Schueler said, “The FCC is the government agency charged with protecting television consumers and oversight of broadcast licenses. We do not understand how protecting and interceding on behalf of TV viewers in 3 million blacked out households in the Northeastern United States does not fall under the FCC’s purview. The FCC has the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act.”
In yet another development, a lawsuit was filed against Cablevision in a White Plains NY court, brought by three subscribers, one each in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. According to a Bloomberg report, the suit charges that Cablevision has denied Fox stations to its subscribers by failing to firm up a new contract with Fox and seeks compensatory payment of $450M plus punitive damages. Cablevision holds that Fox is the company that should be named in any legal action.
RBR-TVBR observation: Is this the tiny movement that breaks the inertia and turns the negotiation – finally – into a body in motion? We’ll see. As for getting government intervention, it’s our understanding that the FCC has a very limited role in overseeing a free market negotiation. Cablevision seems to assume that it would be the beneficiary if the FCC did get involved. Slinging mud at an agency acting within the framework Congress constructed doesn’t seem like the soundest strategy to us.