Fox giving Time Warner and Bright House reprieve from pulling channels
(UPDATE: Fox channels remain on Bright House this morning as the two sides are still negotiating to reach a deal. The original three-hour contract extension which kept Fox from pulling its channels at midnight on New Year's Day now has been extended again to 11 a.m., according to Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin.
Local Fox affiliate WTVT-Ch. 13 reported this morning that both sides hope to reach a deal before the 8:30 p.m. start of tonight's Sugar Bowl game featuring the University of Florida football team.)
Fox has delayed the decision to pull its network affiliates and some cable programming from Time Warner and Bright House Networks cable systems, providing a three-hour extension its rebroadcast agreements as the New Year began.
The cable systems were expected to lose access to Fox's channels at midnight, following a struggle over compensation for the retransmission agreements. The outage would affect more than 1-million Bright House subscriber households in the Tampa Bay area and about 850,000 households in the Orlando area.
A spokesman for Fox would not say how long the delay would last in an email just after midnight. But a spokesman for Bright House Networks confirmed the cable systems have been given a three-hour delay while negotiations continue in Los Angeles.
The Orlando Sentinel, quoting a statement from local Fox-owned affiliate WOFL, said Fox had agreed to a three-hour extension, pushing back the time Fox shows would disappear to 3 a.m. on the East Coast and midnight in Los Angeles.
But Fox spokesman Scott Grogin would only confirm in an email that "we're still negotiating and going to give it a little more time."
The extension meant that Tampa Bay area viewers saw Fox News reporter Rick Leventhal count in the New Year, just before a song from American Idol winner Kris Allen. The reprieve also allowed Fox to avoid spoiling viewers' New Year's Eve revelry on the East Coast, pushing back any programming outage to a time when much of the country would not be watching TV.
The possibility that Fox might remove its programming from Time Warner and Bright House cable systems brought a flurry of activity today, including a lawsuit filed by a Tampa lawyer trying to bar the action (it was denied) and a letter from Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski asking for a temporary extension.
While Time Warner Cable has shown a willingness to avoid an outage, agreeing to enter binding arbitration and a 30-day cooling off period suggested by a New York congressman, Fox owner News Corp. has shown little willingness to follow suit.
Sports fans in Florida were particularly incensed at the possibility of missing Fox's airing later today of the Sugar Bowl, featuring the final performance by University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow as a collegiate player.
Tampa's Fox-owned affiliate WTVT posted a list of places where area fans could see today's Sugar Bowl game if an outage occurred.
In another cable fee fight gone bad, Scripps Networks has decided to pull its popular cable channels The Food Network and HGTV from the Cablevision system after its contract expired at the start of the New Year. The removal, affecting more than 3-million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, was sparked by Scripps' efforts to increase its retransmission fees for the channels.
"We wish Scripps well and have no expectation of carrying their programming again, given the dramatic changes in their approach to working with distributors to reach television viewers," read a statement issued last night by Cablevision.