Thanks To News Corp. Extortion, NYC Cablevision Subscribers Miss NLCS Game

Last night I watched Doc Halladay and Tim Lincecum in a great pitching duel. But if you live in New York and subscribe to Cablevision, it was blacked out -- thanks to a high-stakes game of chicken between Cablevision and News Corp.

This shouldn't have happened. But in a monopoly industry that has only token competition, this sort of thing is not uncommon. We've gotten far too used to media companies putting the screws to us through high prices, poor service and lousy selection. Isn't it time we regulated the cable industry, and restrained the media companies that provide content? As far as I'm concerned, cable is now a utility -- and should be regulated like one:

NEW YORK — Cablevision, the service provider for 3 million customers in the New York area, and Fox parent News Corp. failed to solve a dispute over rates Saturday, leaving baseball fans who wanted to watch the opener of the National League Championship Series with a blank screen instead of a marquee pitching matchup.

Both sides met throughout the afternoon Saturday but adjourned before the start of the playoff game between the Phillies and the San Francisco Giants, said Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella. Negotiators plan to meet again Sunday.

The stalemate that led to Fox pulling its channels and, briefly, online content from subscribers in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut early Saturday was the latest in a series of programming fee disputes that have led to blackouts of programs such as the Oscars. But the impasse amounted to more than corporate wrangling for Bronx resident Clifford Taylor.

"We live for sports," Taylor said. "Die-hard New Yorker fans, we love to see the Yankees and Giants play."

[...] According to Cablevision, the dispute is about $80 million, to be precise. The cable company says that News Corp. is asking for that much more a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those in dispute. That would more than double the yearly rate to $150 million, says the company, which is demanding that Fox enter into binding arbitration.

Fox, meanwhile, blames Cablevision Systems Corp. "In an effort to avoid this very situation, we started this process in May and made numerous reasonable proposals, Mike Hopkins, president of Fox Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing, said in an earlier release.

"As long as there is a serious effort on the part of Cablevision, we will be at the table," Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said Saturday. "We want to settle this as quickly as possible."

After negotiations ended later in the day, Cablevision issued a statement accusing News Corp. of using the sporting events "to hold viewers hostage," calling it shameful.

By Saturday afternoon, Cablevision's Internet customers were blocked from watching Fox content on the network's website and on the video site Hulu, prompting U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., to call on the Federal Communications Commission to broker an agreement and step in to "defend Internet freedom and consumer rights."

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.