WABC Threatens To Pull Signal From Cablevision Over Retrans Dispute - Broadcasting & Cable

WABC Threatens To Pull Signal From Cablevision Over Retrans Dispute

New York station says it will pull signal at 12:01 a.m. March 7 "unless we receive appropriate cash compensation"
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ABC
says that it may pull its WABC-TV New York signal from Cablevision on midnight
March 6 unless the cable operator agrees to pony up more for the channel.

Broadcasters
are increasingly pushing for more cash for their channels given the size of
their audiences relative to cable channels that receive higher per-sub fees.

"Having
tried to negotiate for the past two years, we simply can no longer extend our
ABC content with Cablevision beyond March 6th unless we receive appropriate
cash compensation," ABC said in a statement.
WABC took another poke at Cablevision Wednesday in the parties’ ongoing retrans row.  President/General Manager Rebecca S. Campbell said in a statement: “Over and over again, Cablevision picks fights with programmers, and it is Cablevision subscribers who suffer the loss. The inconvenient truth about Cablevision is that it pockets hundreds of millions of dollars in subscriber fees each year by carrying ABC7.  Dropping our station would be the latest insult.”

Campbell reminded Cablevision subscribers that WABC can be seen on other operators’ systems and over the air. 

It
has launched an on-air messaging campaign to let Cablevision subs know they
could be losing the channel. If the channel is pulled and a new deal is not reached, Cablevision customers living in the New York metropolitan area would not be able to watch ABC's telecast of The Oscars March 7.

"We
can no longer sit back and allow Cablevision to use our shows for free while
they continue to charge their customers for them," Campbell said in a statement March 2. "We've worked too hard and invested too many
millions of dollars in programming and community outreach, to be taken
advantage of any longer - especially since our viewers can watch their favorite
ABC7 shows free, over-the-air, or by switching to one of Cablevision's
competitors."

"It
is shocking that in these difficult economic times, ABC Disney is threatening
to remove WABC unless Cablevision and its customers pay $40 million in new fees
for programming that it offers today for free, both over-the-air and
online," responded Cablevision Executive VP of Communications and Community Relations Charles Schueler in a statement. "It is not fair for
ABC Disney to hold Cablevision customers hostage by forcing them to pay what amounts
to a new TV tax.  We urge ABC Disney not to pull the plug and instead work
with us to reach a fair agreement."

In
its open letter, ABC said: "We will continue to work with Cablevision to
reach a fair agreement."

Responding to the Cablevision claim of $40 million in new fees, said an ABC spokeswoman: "What they don't mention is that they are already charging their subscribers up to $18 [per] month for the basic broadcast bundle, of which not one penny goes to WABC-TV." She says that with 3.3 million subs and at a conservative multiple of $16 times 3 million , that's well over $500 million a year.

"As Rebecca states in her letter: 'We can no longer sit back and allow Cablevision to use our shows for free while they continue to charge their customers for them,'" said the spokeswoman.

"We pay Disney more than $200 million a year today for all their channels, the $40 million they're demanding represents a 20 percent increase for the same exact programming customers receive today," said a Cablevision source. "Our customers get nothing more except for millions of dollars in new fees."

Both sides are taking their fight directly to viewers.

In a story on the retrans dispute on its local news, WABC-TV advised viewers that they could visit visit www.saveABC7.com or call 1-877-990-ABC7 for more information.

Cablevision said Tuesday that it had begun advising its customers to call 1-877-No-TV-Tax, visit www.cablevision.com/abc or join a Facebook group "Cablevision Viewers Say: No New Fees, ABC!"

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