Having been in the center of the retransmission consent controversy with his company’s standoff with Cablevision, News Corporation COO Chase Carey told the UBS Media Conference in New York that he doesn’t expect to see the FCC inject itself into retrans negotiations.
As time goes on, the News Corp. executive predicted that there will be less noise about retrans. “Once you get past the fact that this was a change – I accept that this was a change, we’d not been getting paid and now we’re getting paid,” Carey said, the negotiations with MSOs over programming fees for broadcast stations will be just like negotiating programming fees for cable channels.
“I’m not saying the cable guys won’t continue to try to in some manner look to Washington,” the COO said, but from his talks with people in DC there is a broad recognition that broadcasters have the most valuable programming “and we have a right to get paid.”
Of course, the issue moves to the front burner when a station is pulled from a cable system, as happened with the Fox O&Os in New York and Philadelphia on the Cablevision systems. “We understand customers don’t like to lose the service. The reality is it only happened in one place. I think there was more noise about it than the reality. Mostly business got done,” he said.
So, is he satisfied with the financial terms of the recent deals with Cablevision and other MSOs?
“We are pleased with where we got to. But realistically, we could have asked for a lot more. We have tried to be constructive about this – not all the cable guys would agree we’ve been constructive,” Carey said. “If you really look at the value of Fox, we could be asking for a multiple of what we were asking for.” At this point the UBS analyst asked what that was, but Carey laughed and said the figure the network had asked for was “manageable” for MSOs.
The Fox Network, Carey noted, is worth more to distributors than any cable network. “It should be our most important channel, our most profitable channel – it’s our biggest channel,” Carey said.