SBD/Issue 36/Sports Media

Cablevision, Fox End Stalemate In Time For WS Game Three

Cablevision Subs Were Able To Watch World
Series After Deal With News Corp. Was Reached

Cablevision and Fox Networks Saturday reached a carriage agreement that ended a "two-week stalemate marked by heated rhetoric, political pressures and missed sporting events," according to George Stahl of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The agreement ends "one of the longest and bitterest battles between a television programmer and distributor." But the "animosity continued even after a settlement was reached as Cablevision complained about agreeing to pay Fox 'an unfair price' and about 'the absence of any meaningful action'" from the FCC. The pressure "felt by television distributors was evident in Cablevision's emailed statement Saturday night announcing the agreement." The statement read in part, "Cablevision has agreed to pay Fox an unfair price for multiple channels of its programming including many in which our customers have little or no interest. Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see." Stahl notes talks between the two sides "picked up after Fox and Dish Network Corp. announced a programming agreement Friday." The Dish agreement "undercut one of Cablevision's arguments that News Corp. was taking hard stances against all television distributors." A Fox spokesperson said that the network now "has no major negotiations in the near term" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/1). DAILY VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton reported the two sides "resumed negotiations on Friday and spent the day going back and forth by phone with the goal of getting a deal done" in time for Giants-Rangers World Series Game Three, which began at 6:57pm ET Saturday. The loss of World Series coverage on WNYW-Fox in N.Y. "put pressure on Cablevision to act, as did the retrans deal that Fox reached" with Dish (VARIETY.com, 10/30). Jets Owner Woody Johnson, whose team's game against the Packers yesterday aired on Fox, "welcomed the deal." Johnson said on Twitter, "I appreciate that both sides were able to work out their differences in advance of our game" (Bergen RECORD, 10/31).

NOT A HAPPY ENDING: In L.A., Joe Flint wrote neither side was particularly "happy with the outcome." Cablevision in a statement "blasted" the FCC "for not getting involved in the dispute and criticized Fox for heavy-handed demands" (L.A. TIMES, 10/31). In Newark, Julie O'Connor wrote Cablevision "begrudgingly ended its dispute." News Corp. "released a statement saying simply an agreement was reached," while Cablevision's statement was "considerably more disgruntled"  (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/31). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes, "Best. Press. Release. Ever" (USA TODAY, 11/1). In N.Y., Atkinson & Perone wrote, "Cablevision caved" (N.Y. POST, 10/31).

Dish's Deal With News Corp. Allows
Subscribers To Watch Games On RSNs

GETTING THE BALL ROLLING: In N.Y., Brian Stelter notes News Corp.'s deal with Dish Friday restored Fox' RSNs "in Dish households after a four-week blackout." With the agreement, Dish also "averts what was an impending blackout of the Fox broadcast network." Fox Networks President of Affiliate Sales & Marketing Mike Hopkins "thanked Dish in a statement Friday afternoon," noting Dish "worked tirelessly to help us reach a successful conclusion" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30). In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce noted financial details "weren't announced, but the battle boiled down to how much Fox wanted per subscriber versus how much Dish was willing to pay." Dish claimed Fox was making "exorbitant" demands, while Fox claimed it wanted "fair market value." KSTU-Fox President & GM Tim Ermish said that KSTU was "asking for less than 50 cents per month per subscriber." News Corp. and Dish "had been battering each other in the press and online but, predictably, kissed and made up after the agreement was reached" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/30).

SHOULD FCC BE INVOLVED? The AP's Ryan Nakashima noted Cablevision called "early and often" for the FCC to "step in and force News Corp.'s Fox to keep providing its broadcast signal while it pressed for arbitration." But the FCC said that "its hands were tied." FCC Chair Julius Genachowski said in a letter to U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), "Under the present system, the FCC has very few tools with which to protect consumers' interests." Nakashima noted the Cable Television Consumer Protection & Competition Act of 1992 "heavily favors broadcasters in such negotiations because they have the ability to black out signals." The "united front among distributors did not hold" as Dish reached an agreement with News Corp. Friday, and RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said that the deal "greatly undermined Cablevision's position." Bank added that "likely Republican gains in the upcoming election could also cloud prospects for FCC-led reform" (AP, 10/31). The FINANCIAL TIMES' David Gelles writes the outcome of the Cablevision-News Corp. dispute "will serve to set the tone as, in future, deals come up to be renewed." With the FCC "declining to intervene, cable companies may go on the defensive, while networks may feel sufficiently emboldened to increase their fees." The dispute "could also affect the regulatory approval process for Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/1).

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