‘Idol’ Spotlight on Retrans Debate

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New Orleans — The New Orleans Hilton
Riverside Hotel last week served as the site for
both the cable industry’s CTAM Summit and local
auditions for the popular Fox 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 networkdistributed
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 in New York and other outlets
from 3 million Cablevision subscriber homes on
Oct. 16, didn’t seem to have a resolution in sight
late last week.

Cablevision subscribers could be looking
at a long stretch without News Corp.’s ownedand-
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 Deportes.

The dispute comes just as Fox’s
coverage of baseball’s San Francisco
Giants-Philadelphia Phillies National
League Championship Series
is in full swing — with a potential
New York Yankees appearance in
Fox’s World Series coverage remaining
on deck.

And that’s not to mention Fox’s
Sunday-afternoon telecasts of games
involving the New York Giants and
Jets, 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 contestans finally strut their stuff
on Fox.