Cablevision-Fox Battle: World Series Ratings Plummet

Cablevision and Fox may be suffering the consequences of their ongoing retransmission consent dispute.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Cablevision and Fox may be suffering the consequences of their ongoing retransmission consent dispute. Cablevision customers are suing the cable company and Fox's World Series ratings are down from last year.

Ratings for the first game of the Giants-Rangers series were down 25% to an 8.9 rating and 15 share from last year's 11.9 rating and 19 share for the Yankees-Phillies series opener. The ratings number is the average percent of TVs that tuned in to the program at any given moment while the share number represents the percent of TVs that tuned in at some point during the broadcast.

San Francisco's 11-7 win over Texas on Wednesday night was down 3% from the 9.2 rating for the 2008 Phillies-Rays World Series opener.

The World Series airs on Fox, and currently about 3 million Cablevision subscribers in the New York and Philadelphia area are without Fox programming.

Cablevision has been without

News Corporation's

(NWSA) - Get Report

Fox since their agreement expired at midnight on Oct. 16.

The ratings leave many wondering if 3 million less viewers among a country with nearly 115 million homes with televisions would be enough to hurt ratings.

Fox senior vice president of media relations Lou D'Ermilio doesn't think so.

"We at Fox anticipated that the situation with Cablevision would impact ratings about 2% to 3%," he said. "The impact is minimal."

He explained that the World Series ratings are down this year because there are less Giants and Rangers fans in the U.S. than Yankees and Phillies fans. The ratings from 2009 were strong compared to years in the past because bigger markets carry more popular teams, therefore attracts more viewers.

This year ratings dropped off to be closer to what they were in 2008.

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the

Associated Press

that the series opener was a "very good start."

"Look, I think there's enormous interest," he said. "I think both these teams are very attractive for a myriad of reasons. I know Fox was happy, and we were happy."

On Thursday, a group of Cablevision customers in New York filed a class action lawsuit against Cablevision in federal court. The plaintiffs of the

Gallo v. Cablevision Systems

suit want the cable company to pay $450 million in damages for not discounting their bills during the retransmission standoff.

>>Cablevision-Fox Battle: Customers File Suit

"News Corp. is the company that deserves a lawsuit, for blacking out the World Series in three million New York-area homes," Cablevision told the

Hollywood Reporter

in response to being hit with the lawsuit. "The Federal Communications Commission has all the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act to end the Fox blackout."

Cablevision pays an estimated $70 million a year for carriage rights to Fox networks, but News Corp. is requesting closer to $150 million a year for program access, according to an Oct. 25 report from analyst James Ratcliffe of Barclays Capital.

Ratcliffe said that Cablevision could lose 30,000 video customers as a result of the standoff. His estimate is double his previous forecast of a loss of 15,000.

Cablevision shares are down 0.3% to $26.58 while News Corporation shares are down 0.8% to $14.38.

-- Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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