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Standoff between Fox, Cablevision continues as deadline approaches

Fri, 10/15/2010 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck

With the midnight deadline looming in the background, Fox Networks and Cablevision are still trying to hash out a retransmission accord after Fox rejected Cablevision's offer of binding arbitration yesterday.

According to Reuters, Fox, which News Corp. owns, rejected Cablevision's offer of binding arbitration because it "would only insure that more unnecessary disputes arise in the future."

If the plug gets pulled tonight, Cablevision subscribers will be without popular Fox programs such as "Glee" and "House," as well as Fox's slate of NFL football games.

Cablevision carries Fox on Fox 5 and MyNetwork 9 in New York and Fox 29 in Philadelphia. Fox cable networks NatGeoWild, Fox Deportes and Fox Business Channel could also end up going dark if a new agreement isn't reached.

Cablevision issued a statement on the negotiations: "In a difficult economy, it is unfair and wrong for News Corp. to demand huge fee increases from Cablevision customers for Fox's channel 5 and My9 and then threaten to pull the plug if they don't get what they want. Cablevision already pays News Corp. $70 million every year for its channels, and now News Corp. wants more than $150 million a year for the exact same programming. We call on the executives of News Corp. to stop threatening to pull the plug and instead negotiate a fair agreement."

Retransmission dustups have become increasingly more common as Fox and other networks want video service providers to pay for the rights to carry their free-to-air signals.

In March, Walt Disney pulled ABC from Cablevision's lineup for a brief time period before an accord was finally reached.

Fox has also been embroiled in a retransmission stare down with Dish Network that has led to some of Fox's cable channels being yanked from Dish.

Cablevision has rallied its subscriber troops by offering a phone number, website and Facebook page that allows them to implore Fox not to pull its programming.

"We will work around the clock to reach a new agreement and have appealed to News Corp. not to pull the plug on Fox 5 and My9," said Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications, in a statement issued yesterday. "Cablevision would never take these broadcast stations away from our customers. While we would rather come to terms directly with News Corp., binding arbitration may be the best and fairest way to resolve this matter. Therefore, Cablevision will accept the bipartisan calls from Reps. Steve Israel and Peter King for binding arbitration under the direction of a neutral third party."

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