Fox, Time Warner extend negotiations
By Ryan Nakashima
LOS ANGELES — Fox television's threatened blackout was avoided just before a midnight deadline when the network struck a deal with Time Warner Cable to briefly extend their contract as negotiations between the two companies continued.
Time Warner Cable Inc. made the announcement as the clock rolled past midnight yesterday on the East Coast.
The extension for just a few hours made it appear likely that a deal on fees would be reached, allowing viewers access to today's Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Cotton Bowl tomorrow, the NFL's final regular season contests on Sunday and "The Simpsons" and other Fox shows also were at risk.
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.
Six Fox cable channels, including FX, Speed and Fuel, were still being distributed as carriage arrangements on those channels didn't expire until midnight Pacific time.
The dispute focuses on how much Fox is paid by cable companies to retransmit stations' signals. Time Warner Cable and a smaller cable TV operator, Bright House Networks, have resisted paying a new $1 monthly fee per subscriber that News Corp. is demanding from both operators.
Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt has called the fee demand excessive and said the cable operator has reached deals for "much lower" rates with Fox affiliates — stations that carry Fox programming but are owned by other companies.
Fox has said it needs subscription revenue to supplement the advertising revenues that have supported its broadcast network up until now.
Separately, 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. Mediacom will pay Sinclair a higher rate than it was paying under a contract that also was expiring at midnight yesterday.
But in a sign of how talks can go awry, Cablevision Systems Corp. said early today that it had failed to reach a deal to continue carrying HGTV and Food Network for its 3.1 million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, adding it had no expectation of carrying the signals again. The channels are owned by Cincinnati-based Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.