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Fox, Suddenlink slug it out over cable broadcasting deal
1/3/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Ahron Sherman
The Seattle Seahawks play the Washington Redskins in an NFC Wildcard playoff game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, but if Suddenlink and News Corp/Fox don't reach a retransmission agreement by 10:59 p.m. today, there's a good chance local Suddenlink customers won't see the game.
Suddenlink reported on its website that its customers pay a combined $50 million a year to watch News Corp channels, which locally include Nat Geo, FX, Fox Sports Arizona and the two Fox-owned Phoenix stations - KSAZ-10 and KUTP-MyNetworkTV.
"We're willing to pay a fair price for these channels, but a nearly 25 percent increase - which is what News Corp/Fox is currently demanding - is excessive by any measure," said Gene Regan, director of Suddenlink corporate communications.
"We've made progress in our negotiations and, if more time is needed, we'll ask for an extension ... If News Corp lets us, Suddenlink will gladly keep these channels under the current agreement until a new agreement is reached."
The deadline had been set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, but News Corp/Fox agreed to an extension mid-day Wednesday.
It's unclear whether News Corp will allow Suddenlink to continue broadcasting its channels without a new agreement.
The contract talks do not include Fox News and Fox Business because those channels are part of a separate, longer-term contract, explained Regan.
Suddenlink is unwilling to provide further details regarding the actual increase News Corp is seeking and the amount of money each customer currently pays every month for News Corp channels.
Fox representative Scott Grogin said the company is unwilling to share details from the private negotiations.
"We continue to negotiate with (News Corp) in good faith and are making progress toward an agreement," said Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Pete Abel in light of the deadline extension agreed to by News Corp.
The battle of wills between cable companies and channels has become common practice. At the tail end of 2011, Suddenlink and the Meredith Corporation, the owner of KPHO CBS 5, haggled for two months about the price Suddenlink customers should pay to carry the channel.
Suddenlink accused Meredith of wanting too much money and Meredith accused Suddenlink of not valuing its programming, and then at the proverbial 11th hour the two reached an agreement. Both entities used press releases throughout the process to sway public opinion.
More recently, Time Warner Cable acquired the rights to broadcast Los Angeles Lakers games starting in the 2012 season. The 20-year deal was worth a reported $3 billion. Cox Cable, DirectTV and Dish Network all refused to pay the roughly $4 per month per customer Time Warner was seeking for rights to broadcast the network. As negotiations continued, basketball season started and most Laker fans in Los Angeles missed nearly the first month of broadcasted games.
One by one, deals with the providers fell into place.
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