News Corp., Cablevision spar over carriage fees

In the "Here we go again..." category, retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and distributors have gone public and it looks like they might be headed for nasty territory. In the latest standoff, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) began running ads warning Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) subscribers that if the MSO doesn't cut a TV rights deal with the broadcaster soon, they could lose Fox shows including football games and Glee.

If News Corp. and Cablevision don't reach a new deal by Oct. 16, Cablevision's television customers could lose regular access to the New York stations affiliated with the Fox and MyNetworkTV broadcast networks, and to cable channels Fox Business Network, Nat Geo Wild and Fox Sports en Español, people familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal. (It is worth noting that News Corp. owns the Journal.)

This isn't the first time Cablevision and News Corp. have sparred over carriage fees. Last year, News Corp. threatened to pull Fox from Cablevision during its telecasts of the New York Yankees' playoff run. Ultimately, the companies reached a one-year deal to put off the most contentious business issues. Now they are back in the ring again.

Cable operators and broadcasters are increasingly airing their dirty laundry when it comes to retrans negotiations and luring public support to their respective sides is becoming a tactic of choice for both programmers and MSOs and satellite providers.

Carriage contract talks have become more bruising and more public over the years. As contract deadlines creep closer, each side blames each other for possible losses of favorite shows. Deals are usually reached before programming is actually pulled from the dial. But not always. Cablevision customers lost the Food Network and HGTV cable channels for several weeks earlier this year following a down-and-dirty fee dispute with Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. In March, Cablevision lost access to ABC and some other Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) channels for nearly 24 hours, including during the first few minutes of ABC's Academy Awards telecast before the two sides kissed and made up.

Cablevision isn't the only operator that has experienced very public spats with broadcasters. Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) , Mediacom and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH), among others, have publicly sparred with broadcasters in recent years.

For more:
- Wall Street Journal has this story (sub. req.)
- see this Multichannel News story
- this related story
- and this story

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