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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 15, 2010

Cablevision, Fox Dispute May Blackout Programming for Millions in New York, Philly

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

Fans of New York and Philadelphia sports teams have a big weekend ahead of them. Not only are the Yankees and the Phillies about to begin their respective American League and National League Championship Series, the Giants and Eagles are tied for first in the NFC East and both play pivotal games this Sunday. Unfortunately, millions of football and baseball fans may have to read about the games in the paper on Monday.

News Corp (News - Alert)., owner of Fox Networks, is involved in yet another contract dispute with Cablevision, which has 3.1 million subscribers in the New York and Philadelphia areas. If the two companies fail to agree on a new transmission contract by midnight on Friday, local Fox stations and several other News Corp-owned networks will be shut off.

Cablevision subscribers would lose Fox5 and My9 in New York and Fox29 in Philadelphia. News Corp would also blackout Fox Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes.

As Cablevision customers know, this is not the first time that the company has squared off with a network over a contract dispute. Earlier this year, subscribers briefly lost access to ABC, the Food Network and HGTV before separate disputes were settled, according to the AP. Many Cablevision customers missed the opening of the Academy Awards due to the company's clash with ABC.

Although these types of disputes rarely result in an extended loss of programming, many analysts have suggested that this particular quarrel could go on for some time.

Last year, Cablevision paid approximately $70 million for the right to broadcast 12 Fox channels. Officials with the cable company have said that News Corp is now asking for $150 for access to the same programming.

Cablevision agreed on Thursday to submit to binding arbitration to resolve the issues, however, News Corp., rejected the idea of a third-party settlement, noting that the process would “reward Cablevision for refusing to negotiate fairly,” and would “ensure that more unnecessary disputes arise in the future.”

In an attempt to encourage local customers to make the switch to DirecTV or Verizon (News - Alert), News Corp took out an ad in The New York Times earlier this week, claiming that “Cablevision could be taking your teams away from you!”

News Corp., is also involved in a similar dispute with Dish Network over local sports programming and other Fox-affiliated stations. On Oct. 1, News Corp cut access to 19 channels for more than 14.3 million Dish subscribers. Service has yet to be restored.

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf