The plug was pulled.
In a move that could imperil one of the premiere telecasts of the year for 3 million viewers on Long Island and in the tri-state area, Disney yanked WABC/7 off Cablevision moments after midnight Saturday night.
Anyone who was watching around 11:59 - a repeat of "Lost," by the way - suddenly saw a message scrolled on the screen.
"Cablevision has betrayed you again," the message read. "First HGTV and Food Network. Now you've lost ABC7. Enough is enough!" A screen appeared repeating the message. Then, cue to black.
Both companies immediately issued statements. "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," said the release from Cablevision, the parent company of Newsday.
Later, Cablevision posted a message that repeated on Channel 7, saying that "pulling WABC-7 off Cablevision was wrong" and that it was "working hard" to get Channel 7 back on the air.
ABC noted that "Cablevision has once again betrayed its subscribers . . . This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement."
It was unclear whether the brinkmanship could be resolved by the Oscars telecast at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Disney and Cablevision have been buffeted by political forces to resolve the dispute. A spokeswoman for FCC chairman Julius Genachowski acknowledged last week that many state and Senate officials had contacted him, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) But it's unclear whether FCC jurisdiction extends to so-called retransmission disputes.
Disney wants Cablevision to pay it $40 million for WABC/7, while Cablevision claims it pays Disney more than $200 million a year for its networks, including ESPN and ABC Family.
What are Oscars fans to do? You can head over to the house of a friend who is hooked up to a Cablevision competitor. Or go to Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue's in Mastic Beach, who might have a converter box and antenna. Otherwise, options are limited. Some to consider:
Converter: These are the standard analog-to-digital converter boxes you can buy if you don't already have a digital set. Target lists the Apex DTS50A at $49.99, while Walmart stocks the AccessHD 1080-U box at $42. Best to check your outlet first to see if they are in stock.
Online: A spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says, "There are no sites that can legally stream the ceremony [and] as yet, the Academy has not sold the rights for the show on the Internet." In the meantime, check out this site, which streams an ABC signal in real time: www.channelsurfing.net/watch-abc.html. Will it show tonight's Oscars ceremony as it happens? We won't know until showtime. Also, check out live channel Justin.TV.
AP and Livestream: This collaboration between one of the world's leading news organizations and a video app maker won't get you the ceremonies, but it does promise the red carpet, post-Oscars interviews and frequent updates at www.livestream.com/aplive. The site goes live from the red carpet at 6 p.m.
Follow a blog: Many will put you immediately in the loop.
Goldderby.latimes.com: Exhaustive blog by awards expert Tom O'Neil.
Zap2it.com: The all-things-TV site also has an all-things-Oscars blog. Check it out here: zap2it.com/movies/oscars/zap-oscars,0,6650211.htmlstory.
OSCARS LIVE-BLOG and MORE: Newsday.com will be live-blogging the Oscars and posting complete list of winners Sunday night. Between now and then, see complete coverage at newsday.com/oscars.