Cablevision, Fox Meet but Carriage Dispute Still Unresolved

Lack of breakthrough leads to interruption of major sports broadcasts as companies plan to meet again Monday.

NEW YORK -- Representatives of Cablevision Systems and News Corp./Fox met here Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but didn't resolve their carriage fee dispute, and sports fans in the cable operator's New York home market couldn't watch Sunday's New York Giants 28-20 home win over the Detroit Lions on their home TVs.

The two companies appeared to have made no major progress, but plan to meet again Monday.

As a result, Cablevision customers continue to see no Fox content when trying to tune to two News Corp. TV stations in New York and one in Philadelphia, as well as several cable networks -- Fox Deportes, Fox Business Network and Nat Geo Wild.

Cablevision lost that programming when a previous carriage deal expired at midnight EST Friday going into Saturday.

The lack of a breakthrough over the weekend meant Cablevision customers couldn't watch the Giants, and they missed the start of the Philadelphia-San Francisco MLB playoff series, among other things.

Jon of Aberdeen, NJ, was one of the Cablevision customers and Giants fans who had to find an alternative way to catch the game. "I had to go to a bar [near my home] ... in order to get the Giants," he said. "Oh well, I guess I should go on a hike next time."

After several hours of Sunday negotiations that started around midday, Fox issued a statement before the Giants game was over.

"The parties had several discussions again today, but no material progress was made and we continue to remain far apart," the Fox statement said. "However, both sides agreed to continue talking tomorrow."

Lew Leone, vp and general manager of WNYW FOX5 and WWOR My9 -- the two News Corp. stations in New York affected by the carriage dispute with Cablevision -- late Sunday published an open letter to Cablevision customers, reiterating Fox's argument that other distributors are paying the carriage fees offered to the cable operator and outlining some other financial arguments.

A Cablevision spokesman said: "The longer this shameful News Corp. blackout of the NFL and Major League Baseball continues, the more obvious it becomes to everyone, including political leaders of both parties, that binding arbitration is the fastest and fairest way to return Fox programming to Cablevision customers."

Both Cablevision and Fox have argued in recent days that the other party wasn't negotiating in good faith and with a fair solution in mind.

Cablevision, like some politicians, has repeatedly called for binding arbitration while Fox programming is reinstated on its cable systems. The FCC also suggested Friday that the two sides bring in a third-party mediator.

But Fox has rejected the idea of political intervention, saying the two parties much reach an agreement, and arbitration would encourage Cablevision to drag its feet in negotiations as it would keep Fox content.

During the day Saturday, Fox had tried to crank up the pressure. Fox content on and online video service Hulu was temporarily unavailable to some Cablevision customers before it got turned back on in the late afternoon.

Given that the FCC and politicians are already closely following the dispute, Fox likely didn't want to risk raising too much political ire with an extended online video blockage. Media watchdog groups, including Public Knowledge, quickly criticized Fox about that move. Some have called for new FCC powers this year to give the agency a strong role in carriage disputes, which have been particularly intense this year.