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MSOs to lawmakers: Keep 35% cap - Broadcasting & Cable

MSOs to lawmakers: Keep 35% cap

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Different sectors of the cable industry floated opposing legislative remedies
to the problem of escalating cable prices during a Senate Commerce Committee
hearing Tuesday, including a call by one MSO executive for retaining the 35
percent cap on a broadcasters' TV-household reach.

As each side blamed the other for subscribers' woes, the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association disassociated itself from calls for regulatory
reform and questioned whether rates are continuing to rise at a troubling pace.

The heads of top MSOs Cox Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. blamed
programmers, particularly pricey sports channels ESPN and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.

"Sports programming is disproportionately driving up cable prices for everyone," Cox CEO Jim Robbins said. "I believe the only people making money in the
sports business are sports programmers, like ESPN, and ballplayers -- at the
expense of the American consumer."

Similar remedies were urged by Cablevision CEO Chuck Dolan, who just
battled with New York-area sports channel YES.

"[YES] demanded nearly four times more than we had paid the year before for the
same programming," Dolan said.

Cablevision has its own sports teams and programming investments.

Dolan said lawmakers could remedy the problem of escalating sports and other
programming costs by forbidding programmers from forcing operators to put
expensive networks on basic or expanded-basic tiers.

He also called on lawmakers to examine broadcast networks' ability to "abuse"
the retransmission-consent process by forcing MSOs to carry sibling cable
channels on the expanded-basic tier, and to call on the Federal Communications Commission to retain the 35
percent cap.

YES CEO Leo J. Hindrey Jr., on the other hand, called MSOs "irresponsible"
for blaming programmers when more than one-half of available channels are owned by
cable operators.

He called on lawmakers to require that programming services be treated under
same tiering and compensation terms, regardless of ownership.

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