After two weeks of increasingly nasty accusations and calls for binding arbitration and government intervention, Cablevision Systems and Fox Networks finally reached a retransmission-consent agreement in principle Saturday, ending their stalemate just in time for Game 3 of Major League Baseball's World Series.
Fox pulled its three broadcast stations in New York and Philadelphia on Oct. 16 after it could not reach an agreement with the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO. What followed were two weeks of name-calling and accusations - Cablevision called Fox "greedy" and the programmer called Cablevision "hypocrites." In announcing the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, Fox was uncharacteristically terse.
"Fox Networks and Cablevision announced today that they have reached an agreement in principle for a new distribution agreement to provide more than 3 million households with programming from WNYW FOX5 and WWOR My9 in New York, WTXF FOX29 in Philadelphia, and the cable channels Fox Deportes, Fox Business Network, and Nat Geo Wild," Fox said in a statement. "The signals for all stations and cable channels were restored Saturday prior to the first pitch of World Series Game 3 on Fox."
Cablevision didn't seem quite as happy.
"In the absence of any meaningful action from the FCC, 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," the MSO said in a statement. "Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see."
The MSO then thanked the 175 government leaders that echoed their call for binding arbitration, but again called for legislators to fix what they called a broken system.
"In the end, our customers will pay more than they should for Fox programming, but less than they would have if we had accepted the unprecedented rates News Corp. was demanding when they pulled their channels off Cablevision," the MSO continued.
However reluctant the accord, Cablevision's deal with Fox came a day after the programmer reached an agreement with Dish Network that reinstated more than 20 cable networks, including FX and 19 regional sports networks that had been off the No. 2 DBS provider's air since the parties' contract expired on Oct. 1. The pact, terms of which were not disclosed, also came a couple of days before Fox's retrans deal for its owned-and-operated stations was set to expire with Dish.
A spokesperson for FCC chairman Julius Genachowski declined comment on the agreement, but the chairman on Friday had urged the two sides to strike an agreementl in a statement "welcoming the news" that Dish and Fox had struck a deal.