There's another retransmission negotiation looming. 

    Fox versus Cablevision.

 
    In October.

  Mark your calenders.

 October is when Fox's current deal with Cablevision lapses, and that means...well, we can all guess what that means.

  A battle or a  nice quiet behind-the-scenes negotiation?

  I guess we'll find out. But keep in mind: Fox had a bitter fight with Time Warner over retransmission that spilled over into public view, and was resolved just hours before New Year's Day bowl games were to be yanked. 

  "Retrans" is one of those words that we'll just have to absorb into our vocabulary going foward. 

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  I've posted by question and answer story that ran in today's editions. Thought you may be interested.  

 


  What was THAT all about?

  Last week's brawl was over so-called retransmission fees - the fee that cable operators pay program suppliers for use of their programs. Seventeen years ago, program suppliers like Disney first sought fees for their broadcast signals, but operators declined to pay, instead opting to carry whatever new cable networks they created. The deal was good for broadcasters because they got new networks launched, and good for cable because they paid cents on the dollar per subscriber for the new channels, but avoided shelling out real money for the TV signals. By 2010, that had all changed. Companies like Disney and News Corp. now want money - real money - for their TV signals too.

 But Cablevision already is paying for the signals of CBS, Univision and NBC, so why push back at ABC?

 Simply because Cablevision believed it was already paying a fortune - over $200 million per year - for all of Disney's various channels, including ESPN. Also, Disney was asking $1 per subscriber for Ch. 7, which is very pricey by retrans standards. Any cable operator would push back, and has - most recently, Time Warner which also bucked News Corp.'s initial $1-per sub for the TV stations.

 Does Cablevision have a final deal, and what are the terms?
Terms were not disclosed but it is believed to be for four years, and "my educated guess is that it was in the 50 cent” per subscriber range, says Robin Flynn, senior analyst with Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Kagan, a financial services firm that follows various industries including cable. However, industry sources with knowledge of the deal say it is considerably lower and likely to fee reductions in other Disney programming services. Both companies declined comment.

 Will there be another fight like this?

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 Bet on it - though whether the next brawl will be this rancorous is hard to say. Cablevision must negotiate with Fox in October, when that deal comes up for renewal. Like Disney - pressured by a declining ad market - Fox too will be looking for a raise. And like ABC with the Oscars, Fox has negotiating levers, including the NFL and "American Idol." In addition, other cable networks will seek increases when their contracts come up for renewal.

 Will the fees be passed along to subscribers?

 According to Kagan's Flynn, they already are. "Not only are broadcasters [like Disney] asking for higher rates but so are cable networks [like Scripps-owned HGTV and the Food Network, which also left Cablevision in a similarly bitter dispute in January before returning]. I don't think they'll be able to pass along all of that, but a significant degree will be passed on...Would subscribers pay an extra dollar a month in order to have the ten shows they like to watch? I think people would say 'yeah.'"


 Will the direct broadcast suppliers like Dish or DirecTV have similar retransmission fights?

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 No reason why not, although they already pay for signals, and it's simply a question "how much more?" the next round. A recent retrans deal between CBS and Dish was cut without noticeable bitterness.

 Can the government step in?

In fact, both Dish and DirecTV are part of a consortium that includes Cablevision and Time Warner, which will ask the FCC to consider arbitration next time this happens  -  also proposed by John Kerry (D/Mass), chairman of the Senate telecommunications subcommittee this past Sunday.  Per Cablevision,  “The FCC should take action to protect consumers' interests and reform a system that is clearly broken, as illustrated most recently by ABC Disney pulling the plug on 3 million Cablevision households this past weekend."