Sports Fans Trapped in Fox-Cablevision Dispute

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Last Updated 10:15 p.m. ET

Millions of customers of New York-based Cablevision remained without Fox's channels and programming after a second day of negotiations over disputed rates has ended without an agreement.

Cablevision and Fox parent News Corp. broke off talks Sunday afternoon. Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said they would meet again Monday.

The cable operator blacked out Fox's channels Saturday after their previous deal expired amid negotiations for a new one.

The company's 3 million subscribers missed baseball's National League Championship Series opener and Sunday's New York Giants football game.

Spokesman Charles Schueler says Cablevision favors binding arbitration. Its subscribers have been victims of multiple blackouts this year after deals with networks expired. Fox and Cablevision also met Saturday but failed to resolve the dispute.

Cablevision is the service provider for 3 million customers in the New York area.

The stalemate that led to Fox pulling its channels and online content Saturday was the latest in a series of programming fee disputes that also have led to blackouts of other programs - such as the Oscars - in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Cablevision says that News Corp. is asking for an additional $80 million a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those in dispute. That would more than double the yearly rate to $150 million, says the company, which is demanding that Fox enter into binding arbitration.

Fox, meanwhile, blames Cablevision Systems Corp. "In an effort to avoid this very situation, we started this process in May and made numerous reasonable proposals, Mike Hopkins, president of Fox Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing, said in an earlier release.

Grogin has said that Fox will continue negotiating "as long as there is a serious effort on the part of Cablevision."

After negotiations ended later Saturday, Cablevision issued a statement accusing News Corp. of using the sporting events "to hold viewers hostage," calling it shameful.

By Saturday afternoon, Cablevision's Internet customers were blocked from watching Fox content on the network's website and on the video site Hulu, prompting U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., to call on the Federal Communications Commission to broker an agreement and step in to "defend Internet freedom and consumer rights."

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. has also asked the FCC to intervene. The FCC encouraged the two parties to agree to binding arbitration without suspending service and did not specify a mediator, according to Jack Pratt, a spokesman for Israel.

Fox channels went black for Cablevision customers Saturday shortly after midnight, when their previous deal expired. The blackout affects Fox 5 and My9 in New York and the Philadelphia-based Fox29. Subscribers also lost access to cable channels Fox Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes.

This isn't the first time this has happened: Other Cablevision fee disputes earlier this year blacked out The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC broadcast signal and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.'s Food Network and HGTV.

And in a separate dispute with satellite TV company Dish Network Corp., Fox cut access on Oct. 1 to 19 regional sports networks, FX and the National Geographic Channel for some 14.3 million Dish subscribers. That fight foreshadows more tough negotiations, as the deal for Fox broadcast signals on Dish expires Oct. 31.
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