News Corp.'s Carey Rejects Arbitration or Interim Carriage in TWC Retrans Dispute
Carey also tells staff signals will go dark if no deal is reached
By Melissa Grego -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/30/2009 5:57:25 PM
"We respectfully believe these discussions do not belong in the hands of a third party," Carey's letter reads. It also says: "We understand the justifiable concern felt by Time Warner households in the face of a possible service disruption. However, we believe the appropriate solution is for Time Warner Cable and Fox to negotiate a fair and mutually beneficial deal."
Kerry suggested arbitration and interim carriage in a letter to both Time Warner and Fox. TWC Chairman Glenn Britt gave a thumbs-up to the proposal. However, Time Warner has not officially sought arbitration from the FCC. "While Time Warner says they would submit to arbitration in front of us, neither party has filed anything," said a media bureau spokesperson.
In an internal News Corp. memo also issued Dec. 30, Carey, indicated that an agreement was not likely by the time the deals expired and that the company would pull their network signals: "At this time, it looks like we will not reach an agreement and our channels may very well go off the air in Time Warner Cable systems at midnight tomorrow, December 31."
The dispute concerns retransmission consent deals between Time Warner Cable and News Corp. for Fox-owned TV stations and cable networks, which are set to expire at midnight Dec. 31 local time in six markets. There are Fox stations in New York, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, Dallas and Austin. The companies also are negotiating deals for carriage of regional sports networks and/or some of Fox's national cable channels in more than two dozen markets. The national cable networks deals expire at midnight Pacific Time. Several big-draw programs are due to air on Fox in January, after the current carriage deals expire, including college football bowl match-ups and the new season premieres of American Idol and 24.
In his memo, Carey addressed why Fox isn't providing an extension while negotiations continue: "The fact is that we've been trying since the summer to negotiate a fair deal and that further extensions simply extend the period of time that Time Warner profits from our marquee programming without fairly compensating Fox for it. These customers will have the option to switch to DISH, DIRECTV, or one of the telephone providers to continue to receive Fox programming. I can assure you that we have worked very hard over the past few months to prevent this event. While we are continuing to engage with Time Warner Cable to try to resolve the issues, we will not do a deal that does not value our programming fairly."
As previously reported, the agreement these two companies come to have benchmark implications across the board for both the broadcasting and cable sectors (see "Cover Story: Retrans...The Bloody Battle to Save Broadcast Television" ). Fox is seeking a dollar per subscriber, and whatever fee they do get will set a precedent for retrans negotiations industrywide.
Executives from the two sides have both pledged to remain at the negotiating table right up to the deals' expirations, which as of press time are little more than a full day away. Despite the companies duking it out with much at stake and consumer campaigns, "negotiations are actually going in a very constructive way with professional people dealing with it and each other in a very positive way," Fox Networks Group Chairman-CEO Tony Vinciquerra told B&C in an interview in early afternoon Dec. 30. Vinciquerra said News Corp. execs at the time remained "hopeful we can come to a conclusion but it remains to be seen."
John Eggerton contributed to this report.
I hope Time Warner stays strong; as a New Yorker, I can totally live without the Fox slate. Poor, hollowed-out WWOR serves no real purpose anymore. There are several ways for me to watch new episodes of whatever shows I would no longer see live. Plus, I avoid "Idol" like the plague that it is. Oh, and missing out on Fox News? Thank you!! My prayers have been answered!
Patrick Caudell - 12/30/2009 6:21:30 PM EST
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