Cablevision, Fox dispute may affect baseball fans
Saturday, October 16, 2021 12:51 AM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By RYAN NAKASHIMA

Cablevision customers missed part of the Oscars this year because of a broadcasting fee dispute. Are the baseball playoffs next?

By the time the Phillies take the field against the Giants on Saturday night, baseball fans hope a programming dispute between Fox and Cablevision will be only a distant memory.

Both companies are digging in ahead of the expiration of their programming deal just after midnight Friday. Such deals spell out how much a cable TV system pays the broadcaster to carry its signals over the cable lineup.

Usually, disputes over carriage fees get resolved at the last minute. But if the standoff continues, some 3 million Cablevision subscribers, mostly in the New York area but also in Philadelphia, could lose access to Game 1 of Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series.

In separate fee disputes this year, Cablevision customers have experienced brief blackouts of The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC broadcast signal and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.'s Food Network and HGTV. Subscribers missed the first 15 minutes of the Oscars in the ABC dispute.

Cablevision Systems Corp. has said News Corp.'s Fox is making "outrageous fee demands" for the right to carry the signals of three cable channels and three TV stations. The stations whose signals are in jeopardy are Fox5 and My9 in New York and Fox29 in Philadelphia. Subscribers could also lose access to cable channels Fox Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes.

Cablevision says it pays $70 million a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those in dispute, and that News Corp. is now asking for more than $150 million a year for the same programming. It said Thursday that it is willing to submit to binding arbitration and called on Fox not to pull the plug.

"While we would rather come to terms directly with News Corp., binding arbitration may be the best and fairest way to resolve this matter," Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler said in a statement.

Fox rejected the call for arbitration, saying the process would "reward Cablevision for refusing to negotiate fairly."

"Direct business-to-business negotiation is the only way to resolve this issue," it said.

While Fox didn't dispute Cablevision's claims, it called Cablevision "hypocritical" because it pays more for two of its sister company channels, MSG and MSG Plus, than it does for all 12 Fox channels. MSG and MSG Plus are owned by Madison Square Garden Inc., which like Cablevision is controlled by the Dolan family.

Lawmakers have begun to speak up on the issue, including Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who have called for arbitration so viewers won't have their TV programming disrupted.

Israel asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in the dispute, he said in a statement Friday.

The FCC encouraged the two parties to agree to binding arbitration without suspending service and did not specify a mediator, according to Jack Pratt, a spokesman for the Long Island congressman.

"As the federal agency with jurisdiction to protect consumers interests in these types of disputes, I appreciate the FCC's commitment to keep the pressure on both parties to come to the table without disrupting services," Israel said.

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg urged both sides to extend negotiations.

"New Jersey consumers do not deserve to be treated as pawns in this dispute," he said in a statement.

Rebecca Arbogast, a managing director at brokerage Stifel Nicolaus, said News Corp. and other broadcast company owners risk political intervention if they keep pushing carriage deals to the brink.

"The more that programming disputes escalate and signals get pulled ... the more pressure we believe there will be on the (Federal Communications Commission) and Congress to do something to prevent such consumer disruptions," she wrote in a research note Thursday.

In a separate dispute with satellite TV company Dish Network Corp., Fox cut access on Oct. 1 to 19 regional sports networks, FX and the National Geographic Channel for some 14.3 million Dish subscribers. That fight foreshadows more tough negotiations, as the deal for Fox broadcast signals on Dish expires Oct. 31.

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Associated Press writer Tom McElroy contributed to this report.

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Market news:

  • Fox, Cablevision suspend negotiations over dispute Oct 16, 2021 06:48 PM

    • NEW YORK - Cablevision and Fox parent News Corp. have walked away from the negotiating table for the evening.
    • That leaves 3 million customers in the New York metropolitan area with little hope of watching the first game of baseball's National League Championship Series from their couch.
    • The stalemate that led to Fox pulling its channels from Cablevision after midnight Friday was the latest in a series of programming fee disputes that have led to blackouts of programs such as the Oscars.
      • Fox, Cablevision returning to table in dispute Oct 16, 2021 06:23 PM

        • NEW YORK - Cablevision subscribers in the New York metropolitan area found blacked out Fox channels on their television screens Saturday, while the cable company and Fox parent News Corp. tried to resolve a dispute that threatened broadcasts of baseball playoffs and a football game.
        • But the impasse amounted to more than corporate wrangling for Bronx resident Clifford Taylor.
        • Representatives for Fox and Cablevision said they were resuming talks at noon Saturday in Manhattan.
          • Palestinians weighing alternatives to peace talks Oct 16, 2021 06:23 PM

            • RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Palestinians will study alternatives to peace talks with Israel in the coming days, a top PLO official said Saturday, after Israel gave the green light to build 238 new houses for Jews on war-won land Palestinians seek for their state.
            • The negotiations, launched by the U.S. in early September, quickly broke down over Israel's refusal to extend a limited curb on construction in West Bank settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.
            • The Palestinians want to establish their state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War - and say there is no point negotiating as long as expanding settlements gobble up more of that land.
              • Obama urges Democrats to not get discouraged Oct 16, 2021 06:23 PM

                • BOSTON - With the congressional elections fast approaching, President Barack Obama acknowledged Saturday that the hope and energy he stirred during his presidential campaign may have faded in the face of a grinding economic crisis.
                • I know it can be discouraging," Obama told a crowd of 10,000 at an energetic rally at Boston's Hynes Convention Center.
                • Obama came to Boston to campaign for his friend and political ally, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is struggling to overcome the anti-incumbent mood that has swept across the country during this election season.Obama said Patrick's opponent is banking on the same strategy as national Republicans.
                  • Obama steps into Mass. governor's race to aid ally Oct 16, 2021 04:03 PM

                    • BOSTON - President Barack Obama has a message for Massachusetts voters: give Gov. Deval Patrick a second term so he can finish the job he started.
                    • Obama said Patrick combines optimism with the effort needed to put his state and the country on the right path.
                    • Republicans have tried to use Patrick's close relationship with the president as a wedge issue in the campaign.

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