YES's Hindery: No Cablevision Deal On Deck

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The war of words between Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network and Cablevision Systems Corp. reached a crescendo last week in what is shaping up to be a very nasty carriage dispute.

With no negotiations scheduled, chances are slim that 3 million New York-area Cablevision Systems Corp. subscribers will have access to New York Yankees baseball games by Opening Day.

At a press luncheon held last week to announce several new programming initiatives, YES Network chairman and CEO Leo Hindery said the network isn't currently negotiating with Cablevision — despite the fact that the network launches Tuesday (March 19) and the Yankees' regular season begins two weeks later, on April 1.

Should the parties fail to come to terms, Cablevision faces a public-relations nightmare, because it won't carry the lion's share of the popular team's games. And YES will take a major hit on the ad front, as it had based its rates on reaching 8 million households within the New York market area.

"We would have to provide give-backs [to advertisers]," Hindery said.

YES has signed year-long sponsorship agreements with six advertisers: Continental Airlines, Coors Brewing Co., Tri-State Dodge Dealers, Sears Roebuck & Co., American Honda Motor Co. and Corona Beer.

While Hindery initially said negotiations had not taken place between the parties since January, he later acknowledged that a "junior"-level Cablevision executive — MSO senior vice president of programming Mac Budill, according to sources — approached YES March 1 with a deal that Hindery said offered "pennies" for the network. YES, which is to carry 130 New York Yankees games, is asking for a $2-per-subscriber licensing fee.

The Cablevision executive did not have knowledge of YES's then completed deals with Time Warner Cable, RCN Corp. and DirecTV Inc, Hindery said. YES also has a pact with Comcast Corp.

A Cablevision spokesman would only say that the MSO "would not respond" to Hindery's "transparent attempts to pressure Cablevision into accepting an expensive deal that is not in the best interests of all of our customers."

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