ABC pulled off Cablevision in NY

Retransmission feud leads to blackout

Some 3.3 million viewers in the New York area lost their ABC signal just after midnight on Saturday.

After Cablevision and WABC-TV, ABC's owned and operated station in the nation's top TV market, didn't make any progress in their tense negotiations over retransmission consent on Saturday, ABC followed through on its threat to take the station off Cablevision's systems at 12:01 a.m. ET on March 7, the day of ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards.

ABC's blackout came in the middle of "Lost." WABC carries "Lost" reruns from 11:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday night, and some viewers took to Twitter when their show went dark.

The last thing Cablevision subscribers tuned to WABC (ABC7) saw was the following message from the station: "Cablevision betrayed you again. First HGTV and Food Network, now they lost ABC7," it read, referencing Cablevision's recent dispute with Scripps that kept the two cable networks off the cable operator for 20 days. "Enough is enough. Go to ABC7.com to switch now."

Twitter was also abuzz about a major snafu on Cablevision's part. Instead of pulling only ABC, the cable operator accidentally took down all broadcast networks on its systems.

Moments after midnight, WABC and Cablevision issued another set of dueling statements pointing fingers at each other for the shutdown.

"Cablevision has once again betrayed its subscribers by losing ABC7, the most popular station in the tri-state area. This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement," said WABC’s general manager Rebecca Campbell. "Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year, and now customers aren't getting what they pay for ... again. It's time for Jim Dolan and the Dolan family dynasty to finally step up, be fair and do what's right for our viewers."

In his statement, Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vp communications, said: "It is now painfully clear to millions of New York area households that Disney CEO Bob Iger will hold his own ABC viewers hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees from Cablevision. We call on Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers while we continue to work to reach a fair agreement."

At the heart of the standoff is the retransmission consent fees ABC is seeking from Cablevision for the right to carry its flagship New York station. By using the $40 million figure, Cablevision implies that ABC is looking for a fee of $1 dollar per month per subscriber, the same target that Fox had in its retransmission fight with Time Warner Cable in December.

Cablevision's counteroffer is said to be around 25 cents.

UPDATE: New York-area Cablevision subscribers woke up to find ABC missing from their cable lineup.

Campbell on Sunday morning issued another statement: "Cablevision's legendary greed and disregard for the needs of their customers continues. Now the only way for their customers to get ABC7 is to ditch Cablevision and switch to a provider that cares about them."

UPDATE: With the Oscars telecast mere hours away, WABC has sent Cablevision a  new offer to end the stalemate between the companies.

"We have sent Cablevision a new proposal, and are awaiting their response," Rebecca Campbell, president and GM, WABC-TV. "If Cablevision is serious about doing right by their customers and returning ABC7 and its programming to them, then they need to act now. The ball is in their court."

No other details about the offer were provided.
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