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No World Series on Cablevision as Fox dispute continues

A Philadelphia Phillies player practices in front of

A Philadelphia Phillies player practices in front of an advertisement for postseason baseball on Fox in San Francisco. (Oct. 18, 2010) Credit: AP

Three million subscribers were unable to see last night's telecast of the World Series as Cablevision and News Corp. were unable to resolve their dispute over retransmission fees. Instead, Cablevision offered to reimburse customers who watched a webcast of the Fall Classic.

Just a few hours before the game's first pitch - when it became apparent that no further negotiations would take place - Cablevision e-mailed subscribers, urging them to sign up for MLB.com's World Series package for $9.95. The company said it would then credit each subscriber's account $10.

Meanwhile, a Federal Communications Commission official said last night the FCC was looking into whether Cablevision subscribers should receive refunds for programs missed during the dispute. The official, with direct knowledge of the deliberations over possible refunds, declined to elaborate.

Earlier in the day, Cablevision made a new offer to end the 12-day-old impasse that Fox rejected.

Cablevision, which owns Newsday, had offered to pay the same rate as Time Warner Cable for New York's Fox/5 and Philadelphia's Fox/29 for one year. Fox called the offer "yet another in a long line of publicity stunts."

In response, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications Charles Schueler said in a statement: "On behalf of our customers, we are very disappointed that we offered News Corp. what they asked to be paid for Fox 5 and Fox 29, and News Corp. has said no. It is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that News Corp. is operating in bad faith . . . "

Cablevision's proposal did not address whether it would pay retransmission fees for WWOR/9 or a handful of Fox-owned cable networks.

This sticking point in the dispute involves "bundling," in which broadcasters ask cable operators to pay for a package of both its broadcast and cable channels. Cablevision has sought to "unbundle" Fox's cable networks from the package and pay fees only for the broadcast stations, according to a filing to the FCC on Monday. Fox has refused, according to its filing to the FCC.

In addition to the World Series, the dispute blacked out other sporting events and entertainment programs such as NFL football, the National League Championship Series and the highly popular shows "Glee" and "House."

This Sunday's Jets-Packers game may also be blacked out if the dispute continues.

Jets owner Woody Johnson, in a statement on the team's website Wednesday, said, "Today I spoke with Cablevision and News Corp. about the importance of broadcasting our game this Sunday. Both companies acknowledged the passion of our fans and their desire to watch the game. If a resolution cannot be reached, I hope that they can set aside their differences to air our game against the Packers."

Throughout this dispute, which began Oct. 16 when Fox pulled the plug on the two channels, Cablevision has called for binding arbitration, which News Corp. has rejected.

The dispute centers around the issue of retransmission fees - how much Cablevision pays to News Corp. for each of its subscribers. Cablevision says it now pays News Corp. $70 million for Fox broadcast and cable channels and that Fox is asking for $80 million more. News Corp. has denied that, but won't publicly say what it is asking for.

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