There was no new contract, so at midnight Saturday WABC-TV New York disappeared from Cablevision systems. Now the retransmission consent battle enters a new phase.
“Cablevision betrays their customers again. First HGTV and Food Network, now ABC7” the ABC flagship declared on its saveabc7.com website. That referred to the earlier dispute between Cablevision and Scripps Networks which knocked HGTV and Food Network off Cablevision for much of January.
Cablevision repeated its claim that Disney/ABC is demanding $40 million for WABC. The station has disputed that figure, but has not said publicly how much it is seeking in retransmission consent fees from Cablevision, which had previously paid zero.
Of course, each side continues to blame the other for the impasse.
“It is now painfully clear to millions of New York area households that Disney CEO Bob Iger will hold his own ABC viewers hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees from Cablevision. We call on Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers while we continue to work to reach a fair agreement,” said a statement Sunday by Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s Executive Vice President of Communications.
“Cablevision has once again betrayed its subscribers by losing ABC7, the most popular station in the tri-state area. This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement. Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year, and now customers aren’t getting what they pay for – again. It’s time for Jim Dolan and the Dolan Family Dynasty to finally step up, be fair, and do what’s right for our viewers,” said a statement Sunday from WABC President and General Manager Rebecca Campbell.
The saveabc7.com site is continuing to advise viewers to “switch now” and providing contact information for Cablevision’s satellite TV and telco competitors. “Cablevision’s legendary greed and disregard for the needs of their customers continues. Now the only way for their subscribers to get ABC7 is to ditch Cablevision and switch to a provider that cares about them. Cablevision customers who want ABC7 should make that switch now,” Campbell reiterated in another statement sent to RBR-TVBR.
Cablevision is also providing some viewing advice to its customers, although that advice doesn’t include replacing Cablevision with another carrier.
“While we work to return WABC-7 to the lineup, you can watch WABC-7 free over the air by obtaining a digital TV antenna from your local consumer electronics store. Or, you can watch almost all of ABC’s prime time programming free on the Internet at hulu.com or abc.com,” the MSO advised its customers on its website.
RBR-TVBR observation: Place your bets. How long will this last? Cablevision held out for 21 days against Scripps Networks. Somehow, we doubt that it go as long without ABC as it did sans HGTV and Food Network.