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Cablevision Systems Sued by Customers Over Fox Network Block

Cablevision Systems Corp., which provides television programming in the New York City area, was sued by customers seeking damages for the company’s failure to firm up a contract with News Corp.’s Fox network.

Cablevision has been embroiled in a dispute with Fox over fees, and customers face blank screens today for the U.S. baseball World Series opener pitting the Texas Rangers against the San Francisco Giants.

The suit “seeks restitution for Cablevision’s 3 million customers who have been deprived of Fox channels, which have been replaced by Cablevision’s annoying and self-serving loop, which whines about News Corp.’s supposed failure to negotiate in good faith.”

The complaint, filed yesterday in federal court in White Plains, New York, by subscribers in Yorktown Heights, New York, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, and Stamford, Connecticut, seeks at least $450 million in compensation, as well as punitive damages.

Fox, based in New York, cut its electronic feed to Cablevision, of Bethpage, New York, two weeks ago, after the companies couldn’t agree on fees to be paid by Cablevision.

“News Corp. is the company that deserves a lawsuit, for blacking out the World Series in three million New York-area homes,” said Jim Maiella, a spokesman for Cablevision, in an e- mailed message. “The FCC has all the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act to end the FOX blackout.”

Similar Suit

A similar lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court, a trial court in Nassau County, by two Long Island residents Oct. 21, also seeking damages and alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment by Cablevision.

One of the plaintiffs, William Canfield, said in a phone interview that he sued because “there’s a point when we little people get frustrated when we’re mistreated. I feel Cablevision had an obligation and this should have been handled months ago. It’s not fair.”

Cablevision rose 52 cents to $27 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 26 percent this year.

The federal case is Gallo v. Cablevision Systems Corp., 10CV8125, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains). The state case is Canfield and Gandolfo v. Cablevision Systems Corp., 600933/2010, New York State Supreme Court (Nassau County).

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware, at pmilford@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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