Retrans wars: Ergen snipes at Fox; AT&T warns U-Verse subs

Perhaps FCC boss Julius Genachowski hasn't noticed but there are some really nasty retransmission fights going on these days between programmers and service providers with more on the horizon. Genachowski, many might recall, said he was looking into the issue during a presentation at The Cable Show last spring.

He's still looking as Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) and Fox Network, two companies ruled by strong-willed bosses, mud wrestle over Fox's sports and cable channels and, coming soon, Fox's broadcast channels. Dish's always-entertaining boss Charlie Ergen has now added his two cents to the battle between his satellite service and Fox Networks, calling it a case of a big company squeezing the little guy.

"Nowadays big programmers like Fox want you to pay extra to watch sports channels and they want you to pay even more to watch their particular channel," Ergen said in an online video. "Fox Networks, a big company, which is owned by an even bigger company called News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA), has demanded that Dish customers pay outrageous price increases."

News Corp.'s chairman Rupert Murdoch is on record as saying how much he likes retransmission as a source of income.

On another level--although the big-little comparison gets a bit muddled--Multichannel News reports AT&T (NYSE: T) has sent postcards to U-Verse customers telling them that a looming deadline with Scripps could cause channels such as DIY, Food, Cooking, HGTV, Great American Country and Outdoor Channel to disappear Oct. 31 and that there is a Nov. 30 deadline for FamilyNet and Dec. 1 stop date for Bloomberg Television and EWTN. Hallmark and its movie channels have been off the systems since Sept. 1.

Finally, there's Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) (another company with a strong-willed boss, Jim Dolan) and Fox Networks which have, thus far, been pretty quiet in a retrans fight that's sure to heat up as the weather cools down.

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