This is the garbage we put up with in the sophisticated Northeast.
The distribution spat between The Walt Disney Company and Cablevision started to look more like a spat between two chief executives on Friday, a day before Cablevision’s contract to carry the ABC station in New York City was set to expire.
Meanwhile, viewers who faced the prospect of missing the Academy Awards on Sunday seemed to split their scorn in equal portions between the two companies.
“Why do we have to be subjected to this fight?” asked Jami Lieberman, a Cablevision subscriber in Searingtown, N. Y. Cablevision serves about three million customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Disney owns ABC.
Tens of millions of dollars are at stake in the negotiations over a new contract. Disney wants up to $1 a subscriber a month from Cablevision for programming from the station, WABC, which is available free over the airwaves. Cablevision has offered an undisclosed fraction of that. The current agreement expires late Saturday night.
Demands by broadcasters for so-called retransmission payments are becoming more prevalent. But this dispute is becoming especially bitter. As negotiations stalled this week, Cablevision called on Disney’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, to “stop holding his own viewers hostage” and publicly cited his salary and bonus as evidence that the company was being greedy.
Disney and Cablevision aren’t the only ones squabbling over this issue. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that the regulatory agency should revisit the so-called retransmission consent rules that allow broadcasters to seek fees from cable operators in return for carrying their signals. Kerry told Genachowski that he does not think broadcasters should be allowed to pull their signal from a cable operator “unless the cable company is negotiating in bad faith.” The FCC, he added, would be the ones to determine whether that is the case. Kerry is chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
As reported earlier this week, WABC-7, the local affiliate for Disney’s ABC franchise, said it would go dark for Cablevision subscribers if the parties were unable to come up with an agreement on fees paid by the cable giant to the broadcaster. ABC has said Cablevision is not offering a fair price to carry its programming.
Cablevision has said that Disney, the parent company of ABC, was seeking unreasonable terms. The company says it already pays ABC more than $200 million a year, and is being pressured to pay $40 million on top of that for no additional content.
“We want our customers to know that we will not pull this channel and we urge ABC Disney to make that same commitment,” said Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications
Our TV screen right now — we get Cablevision — shows only a large blue and white message:
ABC has rejected our offers. We have agreements with CBS, NBC, Fox and Univision. We apologize for their [ABC’s] actions.
Like that’s going to help.