1. Fox to Fans: Drop Dead
News Corporation's (NWSA) Fox network is playing hardball in its negotiations with the cable outfits that distribute its content. Naturally, they're seeking more money, and if they don't get it, well, they're pulling the plug.
Fox pulled access to 19 Fox regional sports channels from Dish Network (DISH) after their agreement expired on Oct. 1. No progress has been made in those negotiations. This week it was Cablevision's (CVC) turn to get the brushback pitch. The Fox blackout prevented more than 3 million sports fans from watching both the New York Giants football game as well as baseball's National League Championship Series last weekend.
"In an effort to avoid this very situation, we started this process in May and made numerous reasonable proposals to Cablevision," Fox networks affiliate sales and marketing president Mike Hopkins said in an October 16 press release. "However, we remain far apart and Cablevision has made it clear that they do not share our view regarding the value of Fox's networks."Predictably, no progress has been made. "We remain willing to negotiate and hope that future talks ultimately will be productive, but as of now Cablevision has declined to counter our most recent proposal," Hopkins said. "Regrettably, their efforts were focused more on calls for government intervention than constructive negotiations." Indeed, with pressure mounting, many feel that it's time for the FCC to step in and take action. "The FCC's role has been limited," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said on Wednesday. "But the FCC is a consumer protection agency and, if the Fox-Cablevision dispute proves anything, it is that consumers are clearly not being protected. I believe the Commission should take a very serious look at whether 'good faith' negotiations are indeed occurring." So, let's all agree that consumers and their feelings aren't figuring into any part of this equation. Fox, it seems, is perfectly willing to push around its distributors. But what about Fox's other partners -- you know, the NFL and MLB? How exactly are they feeling about Fox preventing millions of their fans from seeing the games? How about Fox's advertisers? TheStreet Says: Fox may get the bump it's looking for, but we're betting the NFL and MLB might think twice about a network that's so willing to shove its fans to the sideline the next time contracts come up for distribution.
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