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Opening arguments expected in Cablevision-Dish trial

The Cablevision Systems Corp. headquarters in Bethpage. (Nov.

The Cablevision Systems Corp. headquarters in Bethpage. (Nov. 19, 2010) Credit: Bloomberg News

Opening arguments are expected to begin Friday in a $2.4 billion trial in Manhattan pitting Cablevision Systems Corp. against Dish Network Corp.

A former unit of Bethpage-based Cablevision, Voom HD, filed the lawsuit in 2008 in state Supreme Court, accusing Dish of breaking a 15-year satellite television contract between the companies.

Dish, based in Englewood, Colo., says in court papers it pulled out of the deal because Cablevision failed to spend a contractually agreed-upon $100 million annually to develop high-definition programs. Cablevision, which owns Newsday, denies that charge and says in legal papers that Dish unlawfully tried to back out of a deal it no longer liked. Cablevision is seeking $2.4 billion in lost revenue and damages.

The trial is likely to last several weeks. Cablevision's first witness, expected to be company founder and chairman Charles Dolan, could take the stand as soon as Friday afternoon.

Dish chairman Charles Ergen is likely to testify later in the trial.

In the run-up to the trial, Dish declined to renew its contract to broadcast programs from Cablevision affiliate AMC, including “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” AMC accused Dish of dropping its channels to gain an upper hand in settlement talks. Dish said it dropped the AMC channels for financial reasons.

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