Cablevision scores with World Series offer, but no Fox deal

Cablevision is offering subscribers in the tristate area a $10 refund on their bills if they sign up with MLB.com for the World Series, a small PR victory for the company that's suffering subscriber defections as its battle with Fox approaches its third week. Cablevision and Fox battle as World Series plays onFox and Cablevision are locked in a retransmission fee battle that has left some 3 million Cablevision customers without programming from Fox since Oct. 16.

The Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO yesterday told customers that it still hadn't reached an agreement with News Corp. for the Fox programming, which includes the World Series, and suggested they turn instead to MLB.com's 2010 Postseason.TV package, which allows users to watch the games online. It said it would reimburse the cost of the online coverage within two billing cycles.

Cablevision and News Corp. continued trading more vitriol yesterday, dimming hopes that a resolution of the impasse would be reached by Game 2. Cablevision yesterday put out a press release saying that it was ready to "pay the rate Fox charges Time Warner Cable for carriage of WNYW-Fox 5 New York and WTXF-Fox 29 Philadelphia for a period of one year." The company said that, although it was a higher rate than it pays for other broadcasters the deal was "in the best interest of not only baseball fans but of all Cablevision customers and Fox viewers.  We look forward to a positive response." 

The response from News Corp.? The offer was "yet another in a long line of publicity stunts." It reiterated its stance that that their deal has to be for a package of channels including My9, Fox Business Network and NatGeo Wild.

"We have told Cablevision all along we are willing to negotiate a deal - based on an entire suite of channels - under the terms we have reached with Time Warner Cable and other providers, or a stand-alone agreement for Fox5, Fox 29 and My9," Fox said.

Cablevision, which has repeatedly asked that the FCC step in and mediate negotiation-a step that can be taken if the agency determines one side or the other has been acting in bad faith-reiterated its request for intervention.

 "On behalf of our customers, we are very disappointed that we offered News Corp. what they asked to be paid for Fox 5 and Fox 29 and News Corp. has said no," Cablevision said in a statement. "It is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that News Corp. is operating in bad faith.  We call on the FCC to intervene immediately to restore the Fox signals to Cablevision's 3 million homes and order News Corp. to agree to binding arbitration to resolve this conflict."

The basis of the dispute is Fox's reported demand that it receive $150 million in fees for its programming, twice the amount the company had paid and, says Cablevision, more than the total it pays for ABC, CBS and NBC combined.

Related articles:
Fox-Cablevision spat feeding web-based cable company's growth spurt
Fox, Cablevision war of words goes on; Dolan asks for mediation again
Fox, Cablevision fee talks stalled, no help from feds; World Series takes a walk
Fox-Cablevision fee battle: Dumb and Dumber Part 2
Fox/Cablevision tiff will drive some cord cutters over the top (or just crazy)

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