Cablevision Exec: Fox Dispute "Unpleasant Way of Doing Business"

How Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge saw the Fox program dispute


NEW YORK -- Cablevision Systems COO Tom Rutledge wouldn't discuss Thursday how many subscribers the cable company likely lost due to its recent public program showdown with News Corp./Fox, which kept key programmers off its cable systems for two weeks.

But on Cablevision's quarterly earnings conference call, he defended the company's stance against Fox and its hopes for government intervention.

"Our behavior was not uneconomic," he told Wall Street analysts, adding that the company was "doing a rational thing."

He suggested that the programming rates the cable operator ended up paying and any costs or customer losses tied to the dispute were in the end worth it overall.

Rutledge also reiterated that the company felt strongly that the FCC should get involved and was "disappointed" that it didn't. The FCC and observers have said the FCC doesn't currently have the power to interfere beyond encouraging companies in a dispute.

Rutledge signaled Cablevision is hoping for regulatory changes. "Customers are not being well served" if marquee events dropped, he said.

"We think that it's necessary to fight for your customers" and save them money as costs for programming gets passed on to them, Rutledge told analysts. But he acknowledged that the public spat was a "very unpleasant way of doing business."

The executive also said that Cablevision now has retransmission consent agreements with all four major broadcast networks.