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Marketplace Scratch Pad

D’oh! Fox vs Time Warner

Scott Jagow Dec 29, 2009

Homer Simpson: “Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals…except the weasel.” How will you weasel out of this one, Homer?

Time Warner Cable’s retransmission agreement with Fox (Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) expires when the clock strikes 2010 New Year’s Eve, and there’s no new deal in sight. The New York Times sums it up:

In negotiations, the News Corporation is pushing for about $1 a month for each subscriber, potentially setting a precedent for broadcasters that are seeking a new revenue stream to offset advertising declines.

Time Warner Cable is playing hardball, running an advertising campaign to prepare viewers for the prospect of a January without college bowl games or “American Idol.”

Or “Glee,” or “The Simpsons,” or any Fox broadcast program. For years, the broadcast networks didn’t charge fees to the cable operators. They gave away the retransmission rights in exchange for prime spots in the cable lineup. But with ad revenues declining, broadcasters are pining for the model used by cable networks such as ESPN. It gets money from ads and subscriber fees.

If Time Warner capitulates, you know who’s picking up tab. So, the company created a website asking people whether they want to company to roll over or get tough:

With TV networks like Fox demanding price increases as high as 300%, Time Warner Cable asked our customers for their feedback – and we heard you loud and clear.

More than 500,000 unique visitors have had a chance to speak out. And the overwhelming response has been ‘Get Tough.’ So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Even if it means you gotta go to the bar to watch “Family Guy.”

Meanwhile, at KeepFoxOn.com, Fox is throwing handfuls of sand:

By saying that “some TV networks” have demanded up to 300% more from the cable company, Time Warner Cable wants you to believe that it is FOX that has asked for these increases. Time Warner must be referring to one of their other negotiations, because 300% is off by a large multiple.

I told you more of this stuff was coming, with the TV landscape changing, and more companies acting as both carrier and programming provider (Comcast taking over NBC Universal, for example).

By the way, I did get Directv to give me a partial refund on my hockey package, but I still don’t get the Versus network, and honestly, the way these people are acting, I don’t expect to ever see it again.

You taking a side in the Fox-Time Warner sandbox match?

We’ll have more tonight on Marketplace.

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