As the deadline for its carriage deal with News Corp.’s Fox networks looms closer, Suddenlink Communications has floated two separate proposals to the programming giant, including one where it would offer Fox channels ala carte and remit 100% of the proceeds back to the respective networks.
Suddenlink’s existing agreement to carry six Fox stations in nine markets as well as cable channels FX, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Speed, Fuel TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, Fox College Sports and several regional sports networks, is set to expire tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CT) unless the two sides can reach an agreement. While initially the sides appeared to be far apart on price – Suddenlink complained the networks were demanding increases of as much as 25% for the networks – it appeared that negotiations were progressing. That was even more evident Wednesday when News Corp. granted a second extension of the original agreement to 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 3.
But those talks apparently have reached an impasse with several hours still left to negotiate. At 8:14 p.m. (ET) -- roughly five hours before the deal was set to expire -- Suddenlink issued statements mapping out its two-pronged approach to a deal. On retransmission consent, Suddenlink said the vast majority of its customers watch a Fox station that is not owned by News Corp., and for the rest, it agreed to pay fair-market value. Suddenlink also asked News Corp. if it could keep those stations available for its customers.
For the cable networks, Suddenlink offered two options: News Corp. could make proposals for the two networks in which Suddenlink customers are most interested (FX and the Fox regional sports network in their respective area); or News Corp. could set a price for each network included in the contract as a stand-alone channel. Under the last option, basically offering the Fox networks ala carte, Suddenlink customers would pay only for the channel or channels they wanted at the prices set by Fox. In turn, Suddenlink would submit to Fox 100% of the money its customers paid.
“All of these proposals are an attempt to respond to what our customers have said they wanted,” Suddenlink said in a statement. “We are waiting to hear how News Corp/Fox will respond.”
On its website set up specifically to provide customers with information regarding the Suddenlink negotiations, www.keepmynets.com, Fox did not specifically address the latest proposals, but stated that Suddenlink customers could lose access to programming like college football contests (the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4) and the National Football League Playoffs on Sunday if a deal was not reached.
“Fox continues to negotiate with Suddenlink but TIME IS RUNNING OUT,” the programmer said on its www.keepmynets.com website. “We have extended this agreement twice in an effort to reach a deal with Suddenlink. Unfortunately, Suddenlink has not offered terms that are consistent with other TV provider agreements.”
A Fox spokesman declined further comment, adding only that the parties continue to negotiate.