This time, Tennis Channel has put the ball in Cablevision's court.
After receiving word Wednesday that Cablevision, as a new member of the National Cable Television Cooperative, wants to launch the network Friday on its sport tier as part of a longstanding co-op contract, Tennis sent a new proposal to the New York area's predominant distributor Thursday.
Tennis CEO Ken Solomon said Cablevision had not responded to the proposal, which has been scaled back from earlier offers, but still falls within its business model's penetration threshold levels.
Cablevision's iO Sports Pak houses 15 other sports networks and retails for $5.95 per month. Tennis' monthly per subscriber license fee is about 15 cents monthly, according to SNL Kagan.
The distribution ground strokes are being exchanged just days before Tennis commences 240 hours, including 72 featuring live matches, of its initial U.S. Open coverage on Aug. 31.
Tennis, according to Solomon, did not hear from NCTC on Thursday. Officials at the coop, which negotiates programming contracts for members, declined comment Thursday night.
For its part, Cablevision confirmed that it received an email from Tennis shortly before 5 p.m. An MSO spokesman said Thursday night: "We have a valid affiliation agreement, which was reiterated earlier today by the NCTC, and we expect the Tennis Channel to authorize its signal, so our customers can watch its coverage of the U.S. Open."
Whether the parties exchange more negotiating volleys tomorrow or in the days before the Open begins in Flushing Meadows Monday, remains to be seen. Either way, Solomon avers that the contract is not binding and the network does not plan to authorize its signal on Friday. "Legally, NCTC can't do it," he said.
Solomon said Tennis' new proposal to Cablevision is different from what it offered as recently as last weekend, reflecting "a creative way" in which the network could reach about half of Cablevision's universe. The Bethpage, N.Y.-based operator counts some 3.1 million video subscribers in the nation's No. 1 DMA.
He said the penetration level is in line with how Cablevision competitors, Verizon FiOS, Dish Network and DirecTV, position Tennis in the Big Apple and its environs.
"The U.S. Open is a major event, particularly for those in the tri-state area," Solomon said. "Our goal has always been to reach a deal with Cablevision and give our subscribers access without them having to pay extra."
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