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Summary:

The fight over how much Cablevision will pay Fox in retransmission fees escalated to a new level this morning as Fox had denied Cablevision’s broadband customers access to Hulu and other Fox-affiliated online content. The move shows how online video has grown in importance.

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The fight over how much Cablevision would pay Fox in retransmission fees escalated to a new level this morning, as news outlets confirmed that Fox had denied Cablevision’s broadband customers access to Hulu and Fox.com. With the move, Fox entered a new low in the war between content providers and pay television companies as they negotiate the fees that programmers charge pay TV providers, and may have created a new wrinkle for regulatory politics. However, it may also show how online television has gained in importance for large content companies, enough so that it too can become a pawn in these retransmission fights.

Fox is seeking more money from Cablevision, about $80 million more a year, in order to keep the cable company’s 3 million customers watching episodes of The Simpsons and Monday Night Football NFC football games. Retransmission fights have been getting more contentious lately, and this one is no exception, with Fox threatening on Friday to cut off Cablevision’s subscribers if a deal wasn’t reached by midnight.

Apparently, Fox decided to go one further and brought its web properties into play. A Hulu spokeswoman told All Things D:

Unfortunately, we were put in a position of needing to block Fox content on Hulu in order to remain neutral during contract negotiations between Fox and Cablevision. This only includes Fox content. All other Hulu content is accessible to Cablevision [I]nternet subscribers. We regret the impact on Cablevision customers and look forward to returning Fox content to those users as soon as possible.

Although Fox’s online television content is now restored, the action may have further repercussions, especially as the Federal Communications Commission debates the merger of Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider — and NBC Universal, a contributor to Hulu and also a huge provider of content. Opponents of the deal are concerned it could limit the voices available in media, but there are also fears that Comcast would become much too powerful. A statement from the Free Press Public Knowledge explains this point of view:

“This case shows the dangers of unchecked media consolidation and of a retransmission consent regime badly in need of reform. Consumers should not have their access to Web content threatened because a giant media company has a dispute over cable programming carriage. The anti-competitive aspects, particularly when it comes to online video programming, are glaringly obvious.

“The migration of a programming dispute to the online world should also raise red flags for the merger of Comcast and NBCU. If the combined Comcast were to attempt such a maneuver, millions of consumers all over the country would be hurt. Those government agencies evaluating the merger should be alert to the possibility as they decide whether the merger should be approved and, if so, with what conditions.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user comedy_nose.

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  1. Monday night football is on ESPN, owned by Disney. And that statement is from Public Knowledge.

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  2. OK, having watched the advertisement on Channel 5, I called my representative. It seemed like the thing to do in support of ‘my’ cable provider.

    But then I also tried to call you as well. And I found out that while you can put together a very nice presentation about the evils of your adversary, that is all you are willing to do. As such, when I called, there was no one to speak to me.

    I accept that the Tea Party has been dismissed by many as a fringe group. But they are very real. And along with their anger over bad government is also a very real frustration and hostility to businesses that treat customers as peons. The decision by Cable Vision to simply tell people “No one is going to answer your calls or respond to your questions – aka. drop dead!” has led me to step #2. I am now checking with my son in law about alternate providers.

    I teach history and economics. And the thing that always surprises me about bad governments as well as poorly run businesses, is their willingness to assume people are too lazy, or too stupid to look elsewhere for service.

    Since no one was available to speak with, and no way to watch the baseball game after a long week at two jobs, I decided to take a few minutes and comment via the net.

    I don’t normally complain a lot. At the age of 61, I accept that many of these things are beyond your control. But failing to have someone to field questions and concerns is another story.

    I really hate to do this but tomorrow, I look into the competition.

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  3. I think it is good for cable subscribers because they already have too many other options to choose from.

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  4. Yeah, Monday Night Football has never been on Fox. It was on ABC forever, and it moved like three years ago.

    Fox, however, does have NFC football, which means the New York Giants game at 1 tomorrow will not be shown, which is much more important to NY anyway.

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  5. Fox has been batcrap crazy for a while now.

    I hope the FCC looks into Hulu denying Cablevision customers and throws whatever hammers they have at them. We don’t want to get into the days when websites deny service to certain ISPs. If Fox doesn’t want Cablevision customers to see stuff on Hulu, they should take their stuff off of Hulu.

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  6. This isn’t a “new low” in my book at all. I do NOT blame Fox. They are getting jerked around here. I’d miss the content as a customer, but the carriers are just as much to blame.

    If the sheeple of this country would be up in arms about the real problem – which is that a few carriers have a virtual monopoly in every city (and get either exclusive or near-exclusive use of the poles and infrastructure) this wouldn’t be the problem it is today.

    Call your local officials and say NO MORE EXCLUSIVE CONTRACTS with one or two local carriers! THAT is the problem.

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  7. [...] Fox escalated its fight with Cablevision over retrans fees earlier today by blocking Cablevision customers from accessing Fox content on [...]

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  8. Fox has been batcrap crazy for a while now.

    I hope the FCC looks into Hulu denying Cablevision customers and throws whatever hammers they have at them. We don’t want to get into the days when websites deny service to certain ISPs. If Fox doesn’t want Cablevision customers to see stuff on Hulu, they should take their stuff off of Hulu.

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  9. Isn’t blocking Hulu content very anti net-nuetrality. That’s why the FCC should get involved in net-nuetrality. Big Corporate America cannot be trusted in any shape or form. This is just more proof.

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    1. this is a new angle on net neutrality. the conversation is usually about whether ISP can block certain sites. but no there is the issue whether sites can block certain ISP’s?

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  10. [...] Fox Cuts off Hulu: Good and Bad for Cable Subscribers The fight over how much Cablevision (s cvc) would pay Fox (s nws) in retransmission fees escalated to a new level this [...] [...]

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