The current battle between Fox and Cablevision over distribution fees is not the only one that’s taken place this year — it’s not even the only one that resulted in a major network going off the air for millions of subscribers. But this particular skirmish is definitely the most fun — and, at six days, it’s also the longest-running. Could this have happened if the heads of these two companies, Rupert Murdoch and Jimmy Dolan, weren’t so pugnacious? Probably not. But why question the beauty of it?
Let’s just pretend Cablevision subscribers aren’t risking missing the World Series for a minute, and revel in the down and dirty. What’s happened so far?
October 12: As the first television ads warning of the standoff begin to appear, politicians get involved in order to try to stave off a blackout. “I am increasingly concerned that this deadline may pass without a resolution, and Long Island consumers will lose their programming,” said Long Island congressman Peter King. “This would be an unconscionable result and unfair to sports and programming fans who have no part in this fight.”
October 13: Both Fox and Cablevision post dueling newspaper ads (see above) attempting to scare Cablevision subscribers. “Tell Cablevision Three Strikes and You’re Out!” reads Fox’s ad. Cablevision’s ad, on the other hand, merely depicts you, you depressed fattie, as you learn the news you might lose your Bones reruns.
October 15: In the last hours before the cutoff, Congressman Steve Israel snapped: “I hope when people wake up on Saturday morning and if Fox is off their screens they’ll remember that Cablevision agreed to binding arbitration and Fox did not. We need them to stop the brinksmanship.” Ooh, brinkmanship! That is definitely a word that will explain this issue to the masses. Meanwhile, Fox continues to air ads with their familiar voice-over artist scaring Cablevision customers about what they’re missing. “Glee! House! Family Guy! (Well, except you can watch that last one on any of a number of channels in syndication.) Uh, Fringe!”
October 16: Early on Saturday morning, local Fox channels disappeared from Cablevision television sets. After talks broke off on Saturday night, Cablevision EVP Charles Schueler said, “It is shameful for News Corp. to use Major League Baseball and NFL games to hold viewers hostage in order to extract tens of millions from Cablevision customers.”
October 17: New Jersey senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez call on the FCC to open up a can of whoopass.
October 18: Fox briefly strips Cablevision users of the ability to watch beloved shows like Glee and House on Hulu. Ads from Cablevision explaining the loss of programming call it “an act of corporate greed” from News Corp. They also claim News Corp. has “acted in bad faith.” The media giant is “claiming publicly to be willing to compromise, while privately continuing to make the same take-it-or-leave-it demands,” says Cablevision.
October 19: FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says he is “deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table. The time for petty gamesmanship is over.” Speaking of which, the FCC hilariously begins tweeting updates about the Phillies-Giants game for Cablevision subscribers missing it. Your tax dollars at work!
October 20: Don Imus weighs in on his radio show while speaking to Fox Stations president Dennis Swanson: “You know if the same people who arranged your appearance on this program are negotiating this deal for Fox, you are never going to make it,” he said. “I never dealt with people who were such pain in the asses in all my life just trying to get you on the program.”
October 21: @No_New_Fox_Fees observes that Fox is the first programmer ever to black out all four major sports leagues at once. “No TV viewer is safe!”
October 22: Starting this morning, every time Cablevision customers turn on their cable boxes, the channel turns to Fox 5 or 1999, which are both playing a loop of an anti-Fox ad.