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SBD/October 27, 2010/Media
N.Y. Cablevision Customers Set To Miss Game One Of World Series
Published October 27, 2010
Tonight's Game One of the Rangers-Giants World Series "will not be available in Cablevision homes in the New York area ... barring a restart of talks and an unlikely last-minute agreement" between News Corp. and Cablevision, according to Georg Szalai of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (10/27). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes "rabbit ears, satellite dishes and Verizon FiOS are now the alternatives for fans in New York and New Jersey who want to bypass the inconvenience" of WNYW-Fox' removal from Cablevision's systems. Some cable customers in South New Jersey also "have been doubly victimized," as they are currently not receiving either WNYW or Philadelphia's WTXF-Fox. The Trager Group Principal Mike Trager: "I'm positive there's never been a time when a World Series was unavailable to viewers who wanted it." Sandomir notes "being unable to count Cablevision customers for the Rangers-Giants matchup amounts to perhaps 0.2 of a rating point," which is "not a critical fraction." MLB's contract with Fox "requires the network to make all reasonable efforts to get all of its affiliates to carry the games," and once that is done, Fox "cannot then guarantee distribution by cable, satellite or telephone operators." MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said Fox is "in compliance with the contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). In N.Y., Corey Kilgannon notes the blackout "seems to have energized the holdout Giants fans in the New York area." The fans have "sought out bars and other public places that subscribe to Verizon's Fios or to DirecTV, or that are outside Cablevision's coverage area" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
MLB WEIGHS IN ON DISPUTE: MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said of the Cablevision/News Corp. dispute, "Baseball always wants our fans to be able to see our games but … this is a private dispute between Fox and Cablevision. The fact is the Fox signals in New York are on, they're up in the air, and viewers have an opportunity to see the games. They just may not be able to see the games through their Cablevision set top boxes." When asked if MLB can do anything more to facilitate the dispute, Brosnan said, "Fox is in compliance with our contract and, again, their commitment to us is to have the signals in the air and the signals are in the air" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/27).
LATEST SALVO: In N.Y., Carter & Stelter note Cablevision yesterday "tried a new tactic to get the government to intervene" in the dispute. Cablevision President & CEO James Dolan in a letter said that he would come to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski's office today and "promised to bring with him 'new, constructive offers,' designed to reach an agreement" before Game One. But the effort was "met with a swift and stinging rebuke from a senior" FCC official. The official "wasted little time in criticizing the efforts" and "dismissed the move as a stunt." Carter & Stelter note Cablevision and News Corp. "have held no talks at all to resolve the dispute since last Wednesday," and "no new talks between the sides have been scheduled" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Szalai writes Dolan in the letter "made an eleventh-hour play in a possible attempt to sway public opinion or gain momentum in the dispute" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 10/27). In L.A., Joe Flint noted Dolan in the letter said that he would meet with Genachowski and News Corp. President & COO Chase Carey so that the three "can hammer out a deal." But Fox in a statement in response to Dolan's letter said the company "once again calls on Cablevision to return to the bargaining table and resume constructive negotiations." Flint: "In other words, no one is fueling up the News Corp. private plane for Chase Carey to go to Washington." The FCC official said it is "encouraging that Cablevision has a new 'constructive offer,'" but added they "should spend less time writing publicity-seeking letters to the FCC and more time at the negotiating table." Flint noted both News Corp. and Cablevision "have been spending more time taking shots at each other and lobbying politicians than they have trying to cut a deal" (LATIMES.com, 10/26).
DETAILING ILLEGAL SITES? In N.Y., Richard Huff reported a Cablevision rep "told a customer complaining about missing Fox to catch his favorite games on websites -- even though the broadcasts are illegal." The representative added that Cablevision "has an internal 'team' trolling the Internet for similar ways people can watch Fox for free." The conversation came to light after a Fox employee "who is also a Cablevision customer taped his conversation with a customer service rep" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Farrell & Eggerton noted the Daily News report "did not identify just what sites" the Cablevision customer service reps were "allegedly directing customers to" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 10/26). In N.Y., Atkinson & Crowley report News Corp. yesterday sent a "cease-and-desist letter" to Cablevision over the claim that its reps are "directing customers to illegal Web sites to view Fox shows." Meanwhile, two Long Island residents have filed a class-action suit against Cablevision for "failing to provide Fox programming and for not giving customers a rebate for cable bills that are paid in advance" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).
WHAT'S AT STAKE: On Long Island, Verne Gay writes the dispute is part of a "struggle over the future of the television industry and who pays for it." Industry analysts and execs said that what has "made the outcome of this particular dispute so difficult to predict" is that "neither entity can agree on what different kinds of programming cost and who should pay for it." Former N.Y. Time Warner Cable President Richard Aurelio: "It's clear that the rest of the cable industry is kind of rooting for Cablevision and that this has become a defining moment in this whole issue of retransmission" (NEWSDAY, 10/27). DAILY VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton notes it is "unclear what, if any, steps the FCC can take to prod the sides to a resolution, other than imposing fines if one or both are found to be violating the good-faith clause that governs retransmission consent negotiations" (DAILY VARIETY, 10/27).