Fox Broadcasting hurled the first grenade in what could be yet another contentious carriage battle, this time with Cablevision Systems, relaunching its www.keepfoxon.com website over the weekend and running select ads warning customers if a deal isn't reached soon, they could lose access to Fox programming on Oct. 16.
According to the Fox website, the deal will actually expire on Oct. 15 and includes three Fox broadcasting stations -- WNYW Channel 5 and WWOR Channel 9 in New York and WTXF Channel 29 in Philadelphia -- and a handful of Fox Cable networks - Fox Business Network, Fox Sports en Espanol, and Nat Geo WILD.
On the website, Fox notes that it has agreements with Verizon Communications' FiOS TV and with satellite provider DirecTV. Missing is Dish Network, whose Fox deal expires in November.
The tactics are similar to those the media giant used around the turn of the year in a retransmission-consent dispute with Time Warner Cable. However, that battle -- which was settled in January without a disruption in service to cable customers -- involved several more broadcast stations and cable networks.
Fox's carriage agreement with Cablevision originally expired last year, but the two companies worked out a one-year extension as the New York Yankees advanced through the Major :League Baseball playoffs, eventually winning the 2009 World Series in six games. The Yankees are likely to be in the playoffs again this season, which could put some added pressure on the negotiations.
On the KeepFoxOn website, Fox warned viewers that it could miss top Fox broadcast shows like House, Glee and sports like National Football League contests and Major League Baseball. Fox is scheduled to begin broadcasting the National League Championship Series on Oct. 16. The World Series begins on Oct. 27.
Cablevision declined comment.
But in the past, the Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable operator has not been afraid of a fight. In January, it battled with Scripps Networks Interactive over what the MSO called exorbitant fees, reaching a deal about three weeks after the programmer pulled its networks from Cablevision customers. A March dispute with the ABC television station in New York also involved a serice disruption - ABC pulled the network for several hours prior to the Oscars broadcast, reinstating the channel about 10 minutes into the broadcast.
Last week at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment conference in Newport Beach, Calif., Cablevision CEO James Dolan wouldn't address the Fox negotiations directly, but said that rising programming fees coupled with a sluggish economy could push consumers to the breaking point.
At some point you reach a point where the consumer rebels," Dolan said at the conference.
Fox said in a statement that it is "in active negotiations with Cablevision and are hopeful both sides can come to an agreement soon."