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Cablevision-Fox slapfest drags on; will Dish be next?

When I wrote last Sunday's column about the dispute between Fox and Cablevision over what the New York cable-TV service should pay the network to carry its channels, I worried that the piece would be overtaken by a Saturday-morning settlement.

Guess I shouldn't have worried: It's now a week after I filed that column, and the two companies haven't budged. While they have kept themselves busy issuing dueling press releases (and buying full-page ads in newspapers), Cablevision viewers have now gone almost two weeks without their local Fox stations.

As one result, they're missing the World Series.

On Wednesday, Cablevision offered its viewers a deal to make up for that: If you pay to watch the Series online via Major League Baseball's $9.95 Postseason.TV option, we'll put a $10 credit on your account.

On Thursday, a post on the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD site by Peter Kafka quoted Cablevision as saying "thousands" of viewers have requested reimbursement so far.

This could set up a nice little dialectic here. The short version comes in the headline on Kafka's piece: "Another Cable Company Shows You How to Live Without Cable." The slightly longer version: Cable company fights back against network by telling viewers other ways to watch a third party's TV content -- in this case, even reimbursing them for it -- which in turn gives everybody a chance to realize that said content need not be handcuffed to traditional distribution channels.

This could be interesting to watch.

How much longer do you think the Cablevision-Fox standoff will run? And what are the odds that Dish Network subscribers will lose access to Fox as well, starting Nov. 1?

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 29, 2010; 7:35 AM ET
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Someone needs to tell those subscribers about this thing called a "TV antenna", which used to be on the roof of every house, which allowed you to (legally!) watch TV without a cable connection, and without paying the broadcaster extra.

There was even a "rabbit ears" variant which could be used indoors

Posted by: wiredog | October 29, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Ironies abound everywhere. Cablevision is self-righteous about its customers being denied access to certain content (Fox). Meanwhile, as a content provider, it refuses to give FIOS customers on Long Island access to MSG-HD so that it can maintain a marketing edge by billboarding itself as the only place to get all the NY sports teams in HD. Yeesh!

Posted by: mbroch | October 29, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Wiredog, I know all about antennas; when we had analog ota I needed a $100+ antenna to get it and only VHF worked well, UHF was unwatchable. I live in West Milford, NJ about 35 air miles to the west of the Empire State building which is where most of the NY TV stations are broadcast from. Elevation here is around 900 feet, there are terrain features between my location and the broadcast antenna at about 1100 feet. When I check at it shows reception for one station (in purple which means you need an expensive antenna in Newton, NJ which is to the west of me). So no usable ota reception of any NY station for me and most of the people in my town.

For me satellite isn't a decent option either--large trees in the direction the antenna would have to point.

Posted by: frank_s3 | October 29, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

This is what they call competition.Just look at ESPN3 and it's all free.

Posted by: Jadeyemi1 | October 29, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Actually the reporting in this article is incorrect. Cablevision has budged. It made a fair offer to Fox on Wednesday when it offered to give Fox the same amount of money it gets from Time Warner. As a Cablevision subscriber, I will stay loyal to the company. I get a lot of benefits beyond just cable, internet and telephone. Fox is seriously underestimating the loyality a lot of Cablevision subscribers have for the company. If and when Fox returns to the air on Cablevision, I will not be returning to watch their shows. The only way I can punish them for them making me a pawn in their money grab is to deny them eyeballs for the advertisements they air. When their advertisers aren't getting the viewers they paid for, they will take their advertising dollars and go elsewhere and this will utltimately hurt Fox.

Posted by: margaretinnj1 | October 29, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I give it another month. They certainly have their heels dug in for a long fight. If News Corp can take the bleeding of lost ad revenue on WNYW 5 and WWOR 9 in NYC, they could hold out a long time (they've already lost a ton of ad revenue after many political candidates refuse to purchase - or have already cancelled - air time for campaign ads on those blacked out stations).

The other question is how long will Cablevision subscribers put up with this before they cancel service and buy an antenna, or switch to Verizon FiOS (not available everywhere) or a satellite provider? If they start leaving in droves starting in November, it might get settled earlier. However the curse of the "Triple Play" packages is that if you completely cancel everything, then you have to go look for a new phone and Internet service provider in addition to TV. Over the air antennas are still an option but not so popular anymore (it's a tiny fraction of the overall market that still get TV over the air now). Antennas are a nice backup for those cable retrans disputes - maybe more people will consider them now. However, you have to work at it to get a reliable signal using Free OTA TV with an antenna. Taking the time to do the research to select the right antenna, finding the right location to place the antenna, rooftop work (safety issues like power lines and falling hazards), troubleshooting bad reception, etc. is not an attractive option. That's why folks pay for the signal to be piped in through a pay service. And I bet most Cablevision subscribers will end up doing nothing and hope this retrans fight ends soon. Talk about a captive audience.

Posted by: TheNervousCat | October 29, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The basic reality is you are not using the right type of antenna for reach in excess of 35 miles. You need to boost the signal using a 1ghz in line amplifier. Trust me I know. I am in Hamilton NJ. 57 miles from NY and 37 miles from Philly. My antenna is an indoor model and I can steer the signals out of either location by moving it from the south side to the north side and gain reception in both regions. I can pick up all Major networks and Public supported channels. I have not missed out on a single event I wanted to watch, Frankly I would love to see Cablevision move toward helping their customers install antenna's and dropping agreements with all broadcast networks, Don't charge us and don't pay them. It will very quickly revert to the old way of doing business when broadcasters were fighting to get onto cable systems. You see the table's have been turned, now we have to pay for their content when pre 91 they couldn't give it away. I'm with some of your commentators, If Fox comes back on I won't watch it and I won't support products advertised on their stations, that's the only recourse you have to fight with. If cable/Dish providers can form a unified front then they could virtually drive the networks back to square one. If Dish loses Fox this weekend then your talking about a total of 6 million viewers not watching Fox's content. Dish also has another 13 million viewers that I don't know the status of, but can assure you there will certainly be a fight when there agreement has expired. Now were talking about 20 million viewers, Would you as an advertiser want to miss 20% of the viewing households you are trying to reach with your products? I think not, and that's good news for other venues, they will get the advertising dollars because they have access to most if not all 112 million homes in the US. The few households that will suffer will be those out in the sticks with no option other than satellite, there stuck with no other recourse than broadband if that's even available. Networks are spending a lot of time patting each other on the back, but times are a changing. Broadband Media is the future and the networks don't own the bandwidth they will be fighting to get on board just like they did to Cable back in 91. New legislation is the answer, the consumer should no longer have to suffer from the Media giants in ability to settle on a far market value for their products. Al-a-cart, nobody wants to hear it, but that's the answer, let the consumer decide what content they want to have access to. Why should my feet be held to the fire because my cable provider had to buy a bundle that had 5 Spanish speaking channels attached. Not fair and it needs to change, contact your representatives and congressman's offices and speak your mind, Then you will see change, believe me it works, if enough calls and emails come through they will back peddle and write new laws to serve the public trust.

Posted by: jefferyf | October 29, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Dish subscriber (unfortunately) and I put the odds at 90% that I'll lose Fox 5 in DC on November 1 and probably miss some Redskins games. The truly unfortunate part is that unlike if this happened with Comcast or another cable company that serves the Washington, DC area there probably aren't a lot of elected officials, staffers or well known lobbyists who have Dish. If people like that lost their Fox 5 this might get settled quickly.

Dish Network is cheap. They're not going to want to pay Fox what they ask for at all so this battle probably will continue for a good length of time. As for me, as soon as I'm able I'm switching to cable or DirecTV.

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | October 29, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I am a retired Teckie & I think I understand the frustation of many who pay cable rates for all the reasons mentioned in this article ... unbundling the channels that an individual pays for & new regulations as to charges by public broadcasters for content is a part of the solution & Jeffreyf is correct in saying why pay for non english channels & channels selling to the public if one doesn't want them ... I like certain sports & when I had satalite Ipaid the cost ... its a lot of give * take that doesn't satisfy everyone but we do need changes ... I visit in NYC with my gal pal & she has so many Time Warner channels in her subscriber channels as a part of her subscription its crazy who needs around 100 channels or realizes they are paying the $$ for a bunch of garbage they do not watch including all the porn ads etc. I wish we had a real government watchdog that could change what has happend but the lobbyists feed the problem with $$$ & nobody is going to get good regulations enforced to stop the nonsense. In many NYC CoOp nbuildings you can not put an outside dish or antenna & are stuck with what your cable provider sets up as the services and rates for the channels that available at different levels and WE DO NEED A CHANGE FROM THE WAY BILLING OCCURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: ntdalio | October 29, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

For those who simply say "get an antenna" - read this article about Cablevision subscribers who actually bought antennas.

They are now returning the antennas they bought.

Posted by: TheNervousCat | October 29, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Uh Rob: You ask "What are the odds that Dish Network subscribers will lose access to Fox as well, starting Nov. 1?"

The answer: Zero.

Dish settled with Fox yesterday afternoon, amicably and with no disruption in servce. That's how 99.9% of these agreements get settled.

I'm pretty sure that every disruption in service this year has involved one pay TV company: Cablevision. That speaks volumes. Perhaps there is a reason The Hollywood Reporter referred to Cablevision as "the North Korea of the cable business."

Posted by: DennisWharton | October 30, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

> Cablevision-Fox slapfest drags on

I want O'Rielly and Limbaugh to explain this latest failure of the greed-based economy called "capitalism".

Here's your "Liberty", folks. Huge corporations acting AGAINST the public's interest, and a deadlock over who will steal the most from the other.

So what's the alternative? Socialism. Yes, communism doesn't work without a brutal dictatorship, but virtually every other civilized country on the planet is very happy with everything running smoothly and cheaply.

--faye kane, homeless brain

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | October 30, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

This is why we need a la carte pricing. If you don't want to pay for it, then you don't have to.

Posted by: mdembski1 | November 1, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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