Shortly after midnight Saturday, Fox5 and My9 went off the air for more than 3 million Cablevision subscribers after a contract negotiation breakdown, leaving viewers in the dark for Major League Baseball’s National League championship game and, if the impasse continues, Sunday football.
The blackout comes despite the Federal Communications Commission offer to act as a mediator to help the two sides come to an agreement. Instead, both Bethpage-based Cablevision Corp. and News Corp., the broadcast stations’ parent company, blamed each other for the stalemate.
“News Corp has refused to negotiate in good faith,” said Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler early Saturday morning. “We demand that News Corp. put the viewers ahead of its own greed and immediately restore these channels to our customers and agree to binding arbitration to reach a fair agreement.”
Fox argued that the companies should be able to sort the issues out themselves.
“After days of posturing and the appearance of negotiating, [Cablevision] formally stopped even the pretense of negotiating at 8pm – declaring an “impasse” – and made no further efforts toward reaching a new agreement before the expiration,” said Mike Hopkins, president of Fox Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing. He added: “Regrettably, their efforts were focused more on calls for government intervention than constructive negotiations.”
Cablevision said News Corp. is asking for more than $150 million annually for the 12 Foc channels is already pays $70 million for. Contracts for FOX Deportes, FOX Business Network, and Nat Geo WILD also expired.
The blackout is not the first this year for Cablevision, which had a similar dispute with The Walt Disney Co.’s ABC 7 in March, resulting in a brief blackout during The Academy Awards.
“I am disappointed that Fox and Cablevision have not found a way to ensure that consumers could enjoy uninterrupted carriage of Fox broadcast stations on Cablevision systems,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “I remain hopeful that these two companies will do what is in the best interest of consumers and find a way quickly to resolve their differences.”