Programming notes: USA tops in cable viewing; small nets in danger

NBC Universal (and soon-to-be Comcast) network gem USA Network "sizzled in 3Q10, shining above every cable competitor," according to a network news release. Among other things, USA, part of the package of moneymaking cable channels Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) will get along with the NBC broadcast network when it acquires NBCU, "is the #1 network in all of basic cable and is seen in over 98.5 million U.S. homes," the release stated.

The news for smaller cable networks is not so great and many may be forced to sell themselves to larger media groups to continue to operate, according to an ABC News report. ABC is part of the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) which also owns ESPN and is in part responsible for higher retransmission fees that are causing MSOs to rethink and rejigger programming lineups and threaten smaller networks.

Yet another retransmission battle--this time between FOX and Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC)--will probably only exacerbate a problem that small operators like the Outdoor Channel and Hallmark Channel are already facing. The latest development in that fracas is NFL-related. If the two sides don't settle by the Oct. 15 deadline, Cablevision subs in the New York and Philadelphia metro viewing areas will lose access to the "contest" between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles being carried on FOX networks Oct. 16. Last April, Cablevision viewers lost the opening minutes of the Academy Awards show as Cablevision and Disney sorted out final details.

For more:
- see this news release
- and this story
- and this story

Related articles:
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Murdoch likes retransmission, Apple TV; dislikes economy
Time Warner punts on NFL Network carriage; AT&T writes off Hallmark

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