News

Fox Retrans In Cablevision's Court

10/12/2010 2:09 PM Eastern

UPDATED 6:57 p.m. ET

With less than a week before its retransmission-consent agreement with Cablevision Systems is set to expire, Fox Networks apparently has a proposal on the table and is awaiting a reply from the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO.
Cablevision's retransmission-consent agreement with Fox broadcast stations WNYW and WWOR TV in New York and WXTF in Philadelphia and cable networks Fox Deportes, NatGeo Wild and Fox Business Channel expires on Oct. 15.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, a memo sent to Federal Communications Commission staff Tuesday maps out the status of the talks between the two parties. In that memo, Fox claims that it met with Cablevision staff in New York on Oct. 5 and presented a proposal for retransmission consent of the stations and certain Fox cable networks. While at the meeting, Fox informed Cablevision that the proposal was comparable to other deals the networks have done during the past year with distributors. At that meeting, according to the memo, Cablevision asked for a stand-alone rate for the broadcast stations, which Fox provided the next day. Other questions from that initial meeting were also answered on Oct. 6, according to the memo.
The memo also stated that Fox began its negotiations with Cablevision in May, making its initial proposal on May 7, to which Cablevision responded on July 7. A revised proposal was sent by Fox on Aug. 24, to which Cablevision responded on Sept. 21. To date, Fox claims that it has not received a response from Cablevision regarding the October proposals.
While Fox would not comment, it seems clear that the programmer is concerned that its negotiations with Cablevision have reached a standstill and that it may not reach an agreement by Friday. In the meantime, the network is trying to assure that regulators know it has been negotiating in good faith, something that Cablevision has denied.

Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications, said: "In a difficult economy, it is unfair and wrong for News Corp. to demand huge fee increases from Cablevision customers for Fox's channel 5 and My9 and then threaten to pull the plug if they don't get what they want. Cablevision already pays News Corp. $70 million every year for its channels, and now News Corp. wants more than $150 million a year for the exact same programming. We call on the executives of News Corp. to stop threatening to pull the plug and instead negotiate a fair agreement."

If the Fox stations disappear from Cablevision subscribers for a period, it wouldn't be the first time a network fell from the MSO during carriage negotiations. Cablevision had high-profile disputes with Scripps Networks in January and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC broadcast network in March that resulted in those programmers removing their signal from Cablevision for a period of time. Those disputes were resolved.
And Fox is no stranger to retrans rhetoric. It was locked in a war of words with Time Warner Cable in January (which was resolved with no signal loss)and is currently battling Dish Network over 19 Fox Sports regional sports networks and its FX and Nat Geo cable channels. That deal expired on Oct. 1 and those Fox networks have been unavailable to Dish customers ever since.

An FCC spokesperson confirmed that both Fox and Cablevision have been updating the commission on the status of the talks.


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