News and Analysis
Fox is threatening to pull its cable networks, and regional sports channels, from all Charter-owned cable systems if the cable operator does not meet its carriage fee demands by tomorrow.
Update: Fox on Monday night extended the deadline until Tuesday.
The two companies have been negotiating a new carriage agreement, but Fox has established a web site, KeepMyNets.com, that says the channels could be removed on Monday. Channels affected include FX, National Geographic, the Fox Sports channel, the Fox-owned regional sports channels, and Fox Deportes.
Fox News, the Fox Business Channel and the Fox-owned broadcast affiliates would not be affected; they are operating under a different carriage pact with Charter.
“Fox and Charter have an agreement to carry the Fox networks that Charter has chosen to ignore,” the site says. “We’re disappointed that despite our best efforts to reach a resolution, Charter Spectrum subscribers could lose access to multiple Fox sports and entertainment networks on April 10. Charter’s tactics could result in its subscribers missing our popular programming including Fox Sports’ telecasts of the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cincinnati Reds and many other MLB, NBA and NHL teams on Fox Regional Sports Networks, Fox Deportes, National Geographic, and FX’s hit dramas The Americans and Feud as well as much more award winning programming.”
Charter claims Fox is demanding excessive fees for their channels. It’s “attempting to export Charter for hundreds of millions of dollars,” the company says.
It’s unclear if a blackout is imminent, or if both companies are simply trying to posture in public to gain leverage at the negotiating table. But Fox-Charter is yet another case of the viewers getting caught in the middle of a dispute between wealthy programmers and wealthy TV providers.
Hearst-owned stations in 26 markets have been blacked out on Dish since March 3 due to a fight over fees, and DIRECTV has lost eight local channels in the last weeks due to two separate carriage disputes.
For what it’s worth, federal officials, who could actually do something to prevent these fights, often issue press releases that urge the companies to reach a resolution. But there has been no serious talk in Washington of actually reforming the current law that allows broadcasters to pull their signals if a provider does not meet its demands.
While some consumer advocates have pushed for ‘baseball-style’ arbitration to settle these fights before any blackout occurs, the politicians, many of whom are beholden to the TV companies because of their campaign contributions, seem uninterested in the idea.
So, to the question in our headline, the answer appears to be no.
— Phillip Swann