Looking back on the Fox-Cablevision dispute


The long national nightmare is over. Well, the Big Apple nightmare, anyway. Negotiators for Fox and Cablevision came to agreement on a compensation package which will return Fox programming, and in particular, Fox sports programming, to the home television sets of Cablevision subscribers, involving residents of three states in the New York City area.

Terms, are per usual, were not disclosed. Reports put the old agreement at $70M per year, and said that Fox was seeking $150M, which it claimed was in line on a subscriber basis with what it was getting from other MVPDs in the area.

Cablevision had earlier offered to pay what another MVPD was paying for two Fox Television Network O&Os, but Fox insisted the entire package be covered in any new agreement. It consists of three broadcast stations and three basic cable channels.

It means that the Fox NFL schedule for 10/31/10 was back, and World Series coverage picked up 10/29/10 with broadcast of Game 3 action.

RBR-TVBR observation: So far Cablevision has been involved in three of the four most difficult negotiations in 2010 – Disney/ABC and Scripps/Food Network/HGTV being the others. News Corp./Fox has been involved in two – it just resolved one with satcaster DISH – see related story.

Some have suggested that Cablevision is a tempting target for hard-line negotiations, since it is big but not as big as Comcast and Time Warner. Whatever the reason, the company has certainly been willing to play hardball.

Even though these constitute a small number of contentious negotiations out of the entire universe of retrans deals, all four have had a high profile. It is probably too late to stop Congress from getting involved in this. We are sure NAB is well aware and is getting its ducks in a row.

The broadcast argument is simple – it produces the most-watched programming, not to mention critical local content that MVPDs need to survive. Broadcast is the key to an MVPD’s ability to sell subscriptions.  It should be compensated commensurately.

But cable companies would rather overcharge for their own little-watched niche basic cable offerings, or force their carriage in bundling packages that chew up space on MVPD channel lineups while serving relatively few viewers.

To a lot of legislators, it looks like broadcasters are the villains, since they are the ones who are forced to pull programming – so NAB needs to educate them. NAB, the facts are on our side – go get ‘em!