Sore Loser Cablevision Settles With Fox

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UPDATED: The pressure of subscribers missing out on the World Series may have finally gotten to Cablevision. The cable provider this afternoon announced the return of Fox programming to its customers, right before the first pitch of Giants vs. Rangers Game 3 was thrown.

The Cablevision-Fox dispute has been a prime source of drama over the last few weeks, as both sides traded strong language and cease and desist orders. Cablevision’s statement on the resolution of this conflict… oh, just read it:

In the absence of any meaningful action from the FCC, Cablevision has agreed to pay Fox an unfair price for multiple channels of its programming including many in which our customers have little or no interest. Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see.

Cablevision thanks its customers for understanding the reasons for the dispute and for staying with us. We are also grateful to the 175 government leaders who raised their voices to urge government intervention and binding arbitration to prevent this blackout. It is clear the retransmission consent system is badly broken and needs to be fixed.

In the end, our customers will pay more than they should for Fox programming, but less than they would have if we had accepted the unprecedented rates News Corp. was demanding when they pulled their channels off Cablevision.

The statement directly implies that Cablevision will be passing the increase in retrans fees onto consumers, while also shucking no shortage of blame at the FCC, which attempted to intervene in the dispute before deciding that they didn’t want to take on the issue.

Cablevision’s decision to settle, though, may be more inspired by the $450 million class-action lawsuit just filed by Cablevision subscribers against the company. UPDATE: Cablevision’s statement on the class-action lawsuit is as follows: “These lawsuits appear to [be] concocted by lawyers with ties to News Corp. Maybe News Corp. should be sued for blacking out Fox programming and the World Series in three million New York-area homes.”

However, even though this might seem like a win for Team Fox, playing games with retrans fees may be a dangerous strategy for networks in the long run. As Ryan Lawler wrote earlier this month:

The problem is that all of this is happening at the same time that broadcasters are seeing their audiences slowly disappear. The number of multichannel video subscribers declined by 216,000 last quarter, marking the first time that overall pay TV subscribers have ever fallen. In other words, programmers are charging cable companies more for content that fewer subscribers are watching, and their dwindling audiences are getting the bill passed on to them.

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