Yankee fans worried that the carriage impasse blacking out games on Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) would devolve into a long-standing, entrenched standoff with no end in site had their worst fears realized Monday.
It wasn't like 900,000 Northeastern Comcast subscribers missed anything because their MSO no longer carries the Yes Network — the Yanks' Opening Day game against the Houston Astros was rained out.
However, the fact that Opening Day came and went, with no renewal deal yet signed between Comcast and the Fox-owned regional sports network, could very well mean that the standoff could become as intractable as the one faced by Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), as it enters a third season in Los Angeles without wide distribution for Dodgers channel SportsNet LA.
"Both sides here are in the business of making money, so it stands to reason they'll find some middle ground," said Newark Star-Ledger reporter Ryan Hatch. "But that felt easier to write when it was January and February. Now it's April, and nothing has transpired. Perhaps, as Yes has said, the squabble will last the season."
The Yes Network, which serves parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, has been off Comcast since November, with the cable company saying it's unwilling to pay for a channel watched by only a narrow set of baseball-loving fans.
The Yes Network tried to pressure Comcast with an ad campaign featuring former and current Yankees stars, including Derek Jeter, urging effected fans to change pay-TV providers.
Pressure from lawmakers also didn't work. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) reached out to Comcast barrister in chief David L. Cohen, urging him to carve out a deal. But today, they got publicly chastised for their efforts by conservative non-profit group Citizens Against Government Waste, which released a press release that sounded an awful lot like a Comcast lobbyist was in the room when it was written.
"Yes has been trying to force Comcast to increase payments by 33 percent to carry its network in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania," the group's statement said. "However, Comcast made a business decision to discontinue carrying Yes rather than cede to its demands for such outrageously high rates because more than '90 percent of 900,000 plus customers who receive Yes Network didn't watch the equivalent of even one quarter of those games.'"
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