UPDATED: Cablevision Tells Fox to Try Again
Several hours after it filed a memo with the Federal Communications Commission claiming it hadn't received a response from Cablevision Systems regarding its upcoming retransmission consent offer, Fox Networks got its answer: Try again.
Earlier Tuesday Fox networks sent a memo to the FCC claiming it had made a proposal on Oct. 5 to Cablevision regarding its retransmission negotiations and answered questions the MSO had on the next day. The memo stated that Fox had not heard a response from Cablevision after Oct. 6.
In a letter dated Oct. 12 to Fox Networks president of affiliate sales and marketing Michael Hopkins, Cablevision executive vice president of programming Mac Budill issued that response, saying the price the networks want the MSO to pay is too high.
In the letter, Budill said that on Sept. 21 Cablevision made a proposal that would have the MSO pay a rate equal to or higher than that paid to other broadcasters in the New York area. Fox rejected that proposal and countered with a rate that Cablevision claims is higher than the rate it pays all other New York area broadcasters combined.
"Surprisingly, you made it clear to me that this was a non-negotiable offer - that ‘this is it,' " Budill wrote in his letter to Hopkins.
Budill urged News Corp. (Fox's parent company) to either revise the offer or return to the negotiating table to hammer out an agreement.
Fox's retransmission consent agreement with Cablevision expires on Oct. 15 and involves broadcasters WNYW and WWOR in New York, WXTF in Philadelphia and cable channels Fox Business Network, Nat Geo Wild and Fox Deportes.
In a statement, Cablevision executive vice president of communications Charles Schueler said that Fox is demanding an increase that more than doubles the rate it already pays: "In a difficult economy, it is unfair and wrong for News Corp. to demand huge fee increases from Cablevision customers for Fox's channel 5 and My9 and then threaten to pull the plug if they don't get what they want. Cablevision already pays News Corp. $70 million every year for its channels, and now News Corp. wants more than $150 million a year for the exact same programming. We call on the executives of News Corp. to stop threatening to pull the plug and instead negotiate a fair agreement."
In a statement, Fox said that it has been at the negotiating table for months, and that it has submitted two proposals in the past week and several since May. The programmer also criticized the MSO for paying two of its sister company channels (MSG and MSG Plus, now part of a separate company Madison Square Garden Inc.) in 2009 "considerably more" than it pays all 12 Fox channels it carries, even though those Fox channels have higher ratings.
"It's obvious that Cablevision is not concerned about their customers and rather is taking cheap shots at Fox," Fox said in a statement. "We again call on Cablevision to come to the negotiating table and negotiate seriously. We have been there since May and will continue to be there."
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By Kent Gibbons