Fox says no deal with Cablevision; analysts look to World Series as next flashpoint
Cablevision and Fox continued to feud Monday, saying they could not find a compromise in their fees dispute that has resulted in three days of Fox channel blackouts for New York and New Jersey customers.
In a statement, Fox said the parties met briefly in the morning but "unfortunately, no significant progress was made because Cablevision continues to demand preferential treatment and rejects the same fair terms that have been accepted by other providers in the market."
Cablevision, however, said Fox has demanded $150 million, more than double its previous contract.
Meanwhile, federal regulators continued to play a backseat role in the dispute and analysts said television blackouts could continue for days with the World Series as the next flashpoint in negotiations.
"We are continuing to urge the parties to reach a quick resolution for consumers,” said FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard in a statement. The FCC has issued consumer advisories on alternative ways to get Fox content and urged the companies to seek mediation amid Fox’s three-day blackout for Cablevision subscribers. But it hasn't intervened directly in contract negotiations.
Without any major sports events on Fox until Oct. 27, when the World Series begins, the war will enter a battle of “attrition” over other programming, said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.
“Fox is losing ad revenues pegged to ratings, and Cablevision is potentially losing cable subscribers,” she said. “But while Fox can recover eyeballs once the dispute is over,
Cablevision could have a harder time winning back subscribers.”
As noted in a previous post, Cablevision may be willing to take those losses, Craig Moffett of Sanford & Bernstein, said in a note, in order to grab the attention of federal regulators and lawmakers. Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and other paid television providers have pushed the FCC to pursue regulation that would prevent broadcasters from pulling their signals during such disputes.
But Arbogast notes that aside from the pressure of letters and statements, any legislation to give the FCC the ability to act as referee in fees disputes will be difficult to pass in his Congress.
“Even then, it will be subject to broader debates about telecom and media reform, complicating passage,” Arbogast said.
Though limited in how much it can involve itself in those disputes, Arbogast and other analysts note that the FCC will take a closer look at programming negotiations in its review of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal. And the regulatory agency will focus more on how the merger could affect how viewers access videos online. Over the weekend Fox pulled its content on Fox.com and Hulu.com from Cablevision Internet subscribers.
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