Tribune enters SNI-Cablevision Food fight


Food Network minority owner Tribune Company is lending aid to Scripps Networks Interactive in its battle to get Food Network and HGTV back on Cablevision systems. Two Tribune TV stations will be delivering some of the programming that Cablevision subscribers are currently deprived of.

A highly publicized episode of “Iron Chef” with First Lady Michelle Obama as a guest aired on Food Network shortly after deadlocked contract negotiations led to the channel disappearing from Cablevision systems when the old contract expired December 31st. But now viewers in the New York and Hartford markets will get to see that “Super Chef Battle: An Iron Chef America Event” on free TV. Tribune’s WPIX-TV New York and WTXX-TV Hartford will air the two-hour special Sunday, January 10th 8-10 pm. The special episode, which premiered on Food Network on January 3rd, stars Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, along with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford in an unprecedented culinary competition.

In addition, WPIX will also give a special one-time airing to “HGTV Dream Home 2010 Tour” on Friday, January 8th at 3:00 pm.

“We have the greatest fans in the world. Nobody likes the situation, with Cablevision customers being the only viewers in the country who can’t watch our networks as we introduce a number of new special and series in January. These encore presentations are just a small way to say ‘thank you’ for their support and understanding while we do everything we can to get our networks back on Cablevision,” said Brooke Johnson, President of Food Network.

In addition to ads being sold by the WPIX and WTXX sales staffs, the special broadcast of Iron Chef will carry a heavy dose of lobbying by Food Network stars for viewers to contact Cablevision and register their dismay at not having the cable network.

Cablevision has complained that Scripps Networks Interactive is going overboard in seeking a 300% rate increase for its networks, while SNI insists that its networks were undervalued in the previous contract and Cablevision needs to come up to current market rates.