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Cable subscribers could lose Fox programming by Friday

It’s a dramatic showdown of “American Idol” proportions, but the audience loses no matter what.

In a heated contract dispute, Fox is threatening to keep Simon Cowell’s show, “The Simpsons,” NFL football and dozens of other favorites from millions of New Yorkers unless Time Warner Cable forks over more money for several stations.

Seven channels, including Fox 5 and My 9, are set to turn black at midnight Friday for the area’s 1.4 million Time Warner subscribers. The Fox News Channel will not be impacted, as it is covered by a separate contract.

But even if officials ink out an eleventh-hour deal, viewers will still likely pay the price through increased cable rates.

“[Fox’s demands] are unreasonable and excessive,” a Time Warner spokeswoman said. “If these rates keep rising, some of them have to be passed on to costumers.”

Cable subscribers were resigned to paying more no matter what.

“It’s always about money,” said Janine Chandler, 43, of Richmond Hill. “They’re just concerned about the profits, and that’s what creates problems.”

Time Warner’s contracts with Fox, The Weather Channel and Scripps all expire at the end of this year, but only Fox has waged a fight for increased user fees. Fox is reportedly asking for about $1 for every subscriber, while Time Warner only wants to shell out 50 cents. The increases amount to up to 300 percent of current rates for the channels, according to Time Warner.

Spokeswomen for the companies wouldn’t provide details of the negotiations, but said they are ongoing. Still, the saber rattling has grown intense, with both sides taking out ads and creating Web sites soliciting public support.

“We are simply asking for fair compensation for the impressive value our Fox programming offers,” a Fox spokeswoman said.

Disputes between cable companies and the networks pop up every year, especially as media companies have consolidated, said Marc Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America.

Viacom resolved a similar dispute with Time Warner in the final hour last year, and Cooper expected a similar end run with Fox. Still, Time Warner will have to pass along the increased costs to subscribers, as has become the trend among cable companies, he said.

“In the end, they are going to resolve it by sticking it to the consumer,” Cooper said.

Cable rates have increased roughly twice the rate of inflation in the last decade, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Emily Ngo contributed to this story.

Fade to black?
The following stations could go disappear Friday from Time Warner’s channel lineup:

Fox Soccer Channel
Fox Sports en Espanol

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