Fox Content Blackout on Cablevision Heads Into Second Weekend

Cablevision Systems Corp.’s 3 million subscribers in the New York and Philadelphia markets face a second weekend without Fox programs as the cable operator and News Corp. remain deadlocked in a fee dispute.

Viewers may be unable to watch today’s baseball playoff game between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants as well as tomorrow’s National Football League game between Philadelphia and Tennessee. News Corp. cut its Fox signal to Cablevision on Oct. 16 after the sides failed to reach a deal on how much the cable company should pay for programming.

Broadcasters have recently pressed demands for fees from pay-TV distributors for content that has long been available for free over the air waves and the Web. While Cablevision and other pay-TV companies have resisted paying, the networks have succeeded in several markets.

Fox has urged Cablevision customers to switch providers or purchase an over-the-air antenna if they want to watch the games, according to a statement yesterday. Cablevision is calling on News Corp. to enter into binding arbitration, which would let the Fox signal be carried on its systems while the two sides negotiate. Fox has refused arbitration, saying direct negotiation is the only way to resolve the dispute.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau sent a letter to News Corp. and Cablevision yesterday saying it is “deeply concerned” about the impact of the fee dispute on consumers in Cablevision’s service area and requested the two provide information on how they are satisfying their statutory mandate to bargain in “good faith.”

“We welcome the FCC’s intervention,” Charles Schueler, a spokesman for Cablevision, said in a statement yesterday. “Whether through FCC action, binding arbitration or any other means, the time has come for News Corp. to end the Fox blackout.”

Fox plans to respond to the FCC’s request, spokesman Scott Grogin said in an e-mail.

Cablevision, based in Bethpage, New York, rose 21 cents to $26.49 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 24 percent this year. News Corp. declined 7 cents to $14.40 and has gained 5.2 percent in 2010.

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