January 1, 2010

Fox Gives Time Warner Brief Extension

Fox and Time Warner Cable tried on Friday to resolve a disagreement over fees after the contract was extended for a few hours, avoiding a threatened blackout of several stations from the cable provider, The Associated Press reported.

The announcement was made after midnight on Thursday on the East Coast.

However, at 9:30 a.m. EST Friday the companies were still negotiating, according to Scott Grogin, Fox senior vice president for communications.

Many Time Warner subscribers sighed in relief, as it appeared likely that at the very least a further extension would be granted, allowing millions of cable subscribers access to Friday's Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Other programming at risk included the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, the NFL's final regular season contests on Sunday and "The Simpsons" and other Fox shows.

Fox had threatened to pull the signal from 14 TV stations it owns, a move that would have affected more than 6 million customers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., and other markets.

Some would have been able to tune into Fox with an antenna if they have a digital TV or converter box if the signal were dropped on cable, but most Americans now receive broadcast channels through subscription services such as cable TV or satellite.

The Time Warner Cable and Bright House service territories were still distributing six Fox cable channels, including FX, Speed and Fuel, and certain regional sports networks.

Carriage arrangements on those channels weren't to expire until Thursday at midnight PST (3 a.m. EST).

The dispute came as Time Warner Cable and a smaller cable TV operator, Bright House Networks, resisted requests to pay a new $1 monthly fee per subscriber that News Corp. is demanding from both operators.

However, Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable's CEO, called the fee demand excessive and said the cable operator had reached deals for "much lower" rates with Fox affiliates.

But Fox maintained that it needed subscription revenue to supplement the advertising revenues that have supported its broadcast network up until now.

In other cable news, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns broadcast stations in markets as large as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, agreed to an eight-day extension for cable TV operator Mediacom Communications Corp. to carry Sinclair's Fox and CBS stations Separately.

Mediacom will pay Sinclair a higher rate than it was paying under a contract that also was expiring at midnight Thursday.

In another fee dispute, Cablevision Systems Corp. said early Friday that it had failed to reach a deal to continue carrying HGTV and Food Network for its 3.1 million subscribers in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas, adding it had no expectation of carrying the signals again.

Cincinnati-based Scripps Networks Interactive Inc owns the channels.

Under a temporary deal extension, Time Warner Cable continued to carry Food Network and Great American Country as its talks with Scripps also continued late into the night.


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