Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Update: WABC Goes Dark on Cablevision

The Oscar red carpet may be dark Sunday night for some three million Cablevision subscribers. ABC and Cablevision are both sticking to their guns-- they didn't strike a deal ahead of the midnight deadline, and ABC switched off the network shortly after the deadline expired. As many movie lovers feared, the Oscar broadcast on ABC could be collateral. (Other networks also briefly went out, but appear to have been restored by the time of this report.)

ABC's New York area affiliate, WABC, is demanding a fee from Cablevision, saying that Cablevision charges its customers for broadcast networks and it deserves a piece of that.

Cablevision argues that it already pays WABC's parent $200 million, and that the network's demands for more money for the exact same content is unfair to consumers. To this WABC says that they're negotiating separately for the affiliate, and that $200 million is for Disney's cable programming.

The Oscars give major leverage - they're exactly why ABC waited until now to give a hard and fast deadline. ABC tells me they've been negotiating this deal for two years. I'd guess there's a significant possibility the two sides strike a deal right before the Oscars begin.

Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications, said: “It is now painfully clear to millions of New York area households that Disney CEO Bob Iger will hold his own ABC viewers hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees from Cablevision. We call on Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers while we continue to work to reach a fair agreement.”

Rebecca Campbell, President and General Manager, WABC-TV, released this statement: “Cablevision has once again betrayed its subscribers by losing ABC7, the most popular station in the tri-state area. This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement. Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year, and now customers aren’t getting what they pay for…again. It’s time for Jim Dolan and the Dolan Family Dynasty to finally step up, be fair, and do what’s right for our viewers.”

UPDATE: Sources close to the negotiations say Cablevision has refused to meet with ABC all weekend, insisting on negotiating only over email and via fax. ABC has tried to conduct negotiations in person.

As to Cablevisions requests for binding arbitration-- ABC sent a new offer to Cablevision this morning, which Cablevision has not acknowledged publicly.

A source confirms that Cablevision has offered money for the affiliate, but "such a negligible amount that it's laughable"....

Questions?  Comments?