'Idol' Spotlight On Retrans Debate


The New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel last week served as the site for both the cable industry’s CTAM Summmit and local auditions for the popular Fox broadcasting music competition reality series American Idol.

Idol judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson were just down the hall from the summit, listening to the Crescent City’s best and brightest young performers sing their way to a spot on the immensely popular Fox broadcast network-distributed reality series.

It’s a good bet the cross chatter between the young men and women auditioning for a spot on the series and the American Idol judges never got around to the News Corp.-Cablevision Systems retransmission-consent battle happening  more than 1,300 miles away in New York.

But on the other side of the hotel, the dispute was the big topic of hallway discussions among CTAM Summit attendees.

The dispute, which jettisoned Fox broadcast station WNYW and other outlets from 3 million Cablevision subscriber homes on Oct. 16, doesn’t seem to have a resolution in sight.

Cablevision subscribers could be looking at a long stretch without News Corp.’s owned-and-operated WNYW and WWOR-TV in New York and WTXF in Philadelphia, as well as cable networks Nat Geo Wild, Fox Business Network and Fox Sports Deportes.

Due to the dispute, subscribers missed last week’s thrilling San Francisco Giants-Philadelphia Phillies National League Championship Series, and are on the verge of getting shut out of the upcoming World Series matchup between the Giants and the Texas Rangers, which colleague Mike Reynolds has dubbed the Retrans series.

That’s not not to mention the loss of Fox’s weekly New York Giants National Football League game telecasts and new episodes of such Fox primetime series as House and Glee.

The Fox/Cablevision dispute should be resolved well before American Idol premieres its 10th season in January 2011.

Yet it’s probable that the fallout from the contentious battle and its affect on future retransmission-consent negotiations will be debated well after these talented, New Orleans-based American Idol contestants finally strut their stuff on Fox.