Cablevision, Dish Network, and Fox all deserve a loud, reverberating “booooooo.” An ongoing dispute between the television providers (Cablevision and Dish Network) and the network (Fox) is affecting the ability of certain markets to watch sporting events. Just ask Philadelphia residents who cannot watch their hometown Phillies play the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series. Or ask the New York Giants fans who couldn’t watch their team’s week six matchup against the Detroit Lions. Perhaps more importantly, ask the small business owners who are losing revenue because fans can’t come to their establishments to cheer on their favorite teams.
The dispute boils down to the money (of course) that Fox believes it should receive for allowing television providers to broadcast its programming. Fox argues that it should take a larger portion of the substantial revenue that television providers collect from their subscribers. To that end, Cablevision claims that Fox wants more than double the fees, raising Cablevision’s payments from about $70 million a year to more than $150 million year.
Obviously, Cablevision and the other television providers have no intention of doubling their fees without a fight. In fact, a group of television providers that includes Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish Network, and Verizon have asked the FCC to intervene and prevent Fox and other networks from cutting their signals during negotiations. The providers also want the FCC to require binding arbitration of disputes, something Cablevision has already requested of Fox to settle their disagreement.
While I’m not a big fan of television providers’ business practices, I tend to side with Cablevision in this dispute to the extent that it argues that Fox should not be able to cut its signal while negotiations are ongoing. This tactic is a “trump card” in the negotiations that does not seem to foster good faith and fair dealing and that ultimately penalizes the consumer that is paying for access that he or she does not receive. On the other hand, television providers do seem to charge exorbitant rates (based on my bill anyway), and an increase in Fox’s fee is probably warranted. Binding arbitration with a neutral third party seems to be the best solution to end disputes between providers and networks, and the FCC agrees.
Regardless of where we place the blame, the only casualties in this conflict to date are the consumers. While many consumers (especially in Philadelphia) probably dislike Joe Buck and Tim McCarver as baseball announcers on Fox, I’m sure they would rather watch their teams with those two jabbering than watch ESPN’s bottom line for score updates. Thus, until the television providers and networks can resolve their differences, let us all shower them with a resounding Bronx cheer. Booooooo!