Cablevision, YES Strike Out On Deal

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There were several new twists and turns in the negotiating game between Cablevision Systems Corp. and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network last week. But at press time, the scorecard did not include a opening-day slot for New York Yankees cable telecasts in the MSO's lineup.

Meanwhile, YES wrapped up distribution deals with Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc., adding another 170,000 mostly outer-market subscribers in Connecticut and upstate New York.

Cablevision CEO James Dolan and YES CEO Leo Hindery exchanged letters last week in an attempt to structure a deal that would bring 130 Yankees games to 3 million Cablevision subscribers before the April 1 start of the Major League Baseball club's regular season. Cablevision — which wants to offer YES on a premium basis — offered the rookie regional sports service a channel on which it could charge any price it deemed appropriate. YES would retain all revenues.

"Cablevision has made a fair and reasonable proposal that allows customer choice and would bring the YES network to viewers immediately. YES gets a channel, YES sets the price and YES keeps all the money," said a spokesman. "This is an unprecedented offer and they should say yes without further delay."

Hindrey Rebuke

The offer drew an immediate rebuke from Hindery, who derided Cablevision for sending the letter to the press before he received it. He also rejected the deal, saying that the deal proposes a "discriminatory form of carriage which differs from that afforded literally every other basic service."

Hindery would not comment on the contents of the letter he sent to Cablevision.

Cablevision officials, however, said it did not consider YES's rebuttal "a serious offer."

No new negotiations were planned at press time.

Cablevision also made news last week by offering New York Mets fans a buy-one, get-one-free deal for Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports New York. Subscribers buying MSGN à la carte for $8.95 to $12.95 per month — or FSNY for $10.95 to $13.95 per month — will receive the other service free, beginning April 1.

Cablevision — which shifted 55 Mets games to MSGN, the former cable home of the Yankees — holds a majority interest in both regional sports networks.

MSGN, though, will lose about 100,000 Cox subscribers in the near future, as the MSO will remove the service to make room for YES, according to an MSO spokeswoman.

MSGN would not comment on the matter.

Cox will still increase its subscriber fees by $2 to cover YES's licensing fee.

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