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LIers protest Cablevision's loss of HGTV, Food Network

The fallout from the Scripps Network's decision to pull the Food Network and HGTV from Cablevision's channel lineup over a dispute about fees for the channels continued Sunday, prompting some Long Islanders to go online to vent about the change.

The two channels have been off the lineup of Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp. since Friday, when the deal between the two companies expired.

"We believe it was irresponsible for Scripps to take the channels off," Cablevision said in a statement Sunday.

In the statement, Cablevision,  which owns Newsday, said Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. is seeking a "200 percent fee increase from Cablevision and our customers" to continue to air the two channels. Cablevision said its cable rates are increasing by an average of 3.7 percent in 2010.

And instead of keeping the channels running while negotiations continued, Cablevision said, Scripps pulled them. "Cablevision offered Scripps the ability to continue delivering HGTV and Food Network to our customers while we negotiated a new agreement," the Cablevision statement said. Such an extension occurred recently between Time Warner Cable and the Fox Network as well as in "Scripps' own negotiations with Time Warner Cable," the statement said.

Scripps has argued that the rates it seeks are "very reasonable" and similar to rates other cable systems are paying for the channels.

Neither Cablevision nor Scripps would specify the fees Scripps is seeking.

"We want a rate that is comparable to what you might see for other top 10 networks," said Scripps spokeswoman Cindy McConkey.

Cablevision disputes the presence of the two networks in the top 10 of cable networks. According to Nielsen, HGTV ranked No. 12 and the Food Network ranked No. 20 among 66 basic cable channels in 2009.

A publicity campaign Scripps began in response to the impasse has generated thousands of e-cards to Cablevision demanding that the channels return, McConkey said. Cablevision said that subscriber response to the absence of the two channels has been "modest."

Joi Jackson-Perle, 48, of Wainscott, started a Facebook group Friday urging the channels' return. By last night, that group had more than 4,000 members, a growth rate that a Facebook representative said was common for groups that focus on timely issues.

"They should have kept working beyond the deadline," Jackson-Perle said. "I don't ever remember having channels yanked off like that."

She said the disappearance of the Food Network meant she would miss a special episode of "Iron Chef America" that featured a guest appearance by Michelle Obama. "It kind of ruined the weekend for a lot of people," Jackson-Perle said. "We just want our channels back."

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