About 3.1 million New Yorkers lost WABC for most of yesterday when Cablevision Systems and ABC's parent company could not find middle ground on a retransmission deal. Then, at 8:43 PM, just minutes into the Academy Awards broadcast, the signal returned.
The two sides--involved in a nasty retransmission stare-down that attracted comments from the likes of high profile politicians including U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and John Kerry as well as satellite radio shock jock Howard Stern--had finally brokered a tentative deal where Cablevision would pay 55 to 65 cents per subscriber for WABC. Disney had wanted a buck a sub; Cablevision was countering with 25 cents.
The retransmission wars are just starting for cable operators and broadcasters around the country. Cable operators have been carrying over-the-air signals free for as long as they've been cable operators. Cash-strapped broadcasters now think they should be paid for their services. For example, in an obviously less publicized situation, Charter Communications has said that it is moving Chicago's CBS WBBM-TV from channel 7 to channel 969 on its digital tier in Kenosha, Wis. effective April 20 as part of a settlement to continue carrying the channel.
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