Tuesday, March 2, 2010

RBR-TVBR http://www.rbr.com/

The clock is ticking down to midnight Saturday, when WABC-TV New York could disappear from Cablevision’s systems.

That would leave millions of households on Long Island and in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Westchester County without the ability to view Sunday’s Oscar broadcast on ABC, unless they happen to have some rabbit ears around the house.

As usual, each side is blaming the other for being unreasonable in retransmission consent negotiations.

"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. 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," declared Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s Executive Vice President, Communications and Community Relations.

For WABC President and General Manager Rebecca Campbell, it’s very simple – Cablevision can no longer take a free ride. “With the help of our viewers, we’ve built ABC7 into the most watched station in the country, and have been trying for two years to get Cablevision to acknowledge the station’s value to their business. Despite our best efforts, it has now become clear that Cablevision has no intention of coming to a fair agreement. We can no longer sit back and allow Cablevision to use our shows for free while they continue to charge their customers for them. 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,” she said.

Indeed, WABC has set up a website that includes a Zip Code based search box that will allow viewers to find which satellite and/or telco providers are available to them as a replacement for Cablevision.

The website, http://www.saveabc7.com/, also highlights the station’s side of the retrains dispute and invites viewers to use a link to email Cablevision to demand that the ABC Network flagship remain on their local cable system.

The current standoff is reminiscent of the battle between Cablevision and Scripps Networks Interactive that had Food Network and HGTV off of the Cablevision systems for most of January. That was finally resolved when the two sides came to terms on an increased fee payment by Cablevision.

In this case, though, Cablevision is starting from the point of paying zero for WABC.

RBR-TVBR observation: The world has changed and the MSOs don’t like it. The reality is that they now have to pay for the most-watched programming on their cable systems. Given what happened with Scripps and Cablevision in January, it is likely that Cablevision will remove WABC come Sunday – but we wouldn’t expect that to last for long.

Broadcast Union News Note: Cablevision currently pays Disney $200 million dollars a year to broadcast ABC, ABC Family, Disney, ESPN 1, and ESPN 2. ABC is asking for an additional $ 40 million for WABC, which is a 20% increase. This at a time when ABC is cutting 25% of their News division employees and offering zero percent raises to their union employees, along with the promise of further layoffs. According to a November 12, 2009 Orlando Sentinel article by Jason Garcia "the Walt Disney Co.’s profit leapt 18 percent during the final three months of its 2009 financial year, lifted by the strength of its ESPN sports channels and its television-syndication sales. Burbank, Calif.-based Disney said it earned $895 million during the three months that ended Oct. 3, compared with $760 million a year ago. Revenue climbed 4 percent to $9.9 billion. The company’s strongest performer continued to be its media networks, particularly its cable-TV operations such as ESPN and ABC Family, where operating profit inched up despite the difficult economy. Including broadcast network ABC, the division’s overall operating profit slipped only 4 percent to $4.8 billion." - BD

ABC is threatening to pull the plug on WABC-7 unless Cablevision and its customers agree to pay millions of dollars in new fees. Cablevision has asked ABC to continue delivering WABC-7, but instead ABC is holding Cablevision customers hostage by threatening to pull its programming.

In these difficult and challenging economic times, it is not fair for ABC to force Cablevision and its customers to pay what amounts to a new TV tax for the same programming that is available today for free over the air and on the Internet.

Cablevision already pays ABC's parent company more than $200 million per year to carry its channels; now ABC wants a 20 percent fee increase for exactly the same programming.
It is wrong for ABC to demand $40 million in new fees to help pay the salaries and bonuses for top ABC executives.

Cablevision has tried in good faith to reach a fair agreement with ABC. In fact, top Cablevision executives traveled to ABC offices in California earlier this month, and had lengthy face-to-face meetings this week in Bethpage and New York City. We have made numerous proposals, all of which have been rejected.

E-mail or call 1-877-NO-TV-TAX and tell ABC not to turn off WABC-TV while negotiations continue for a deal that is fair for everyone.

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