Fox Threatens Idol Lockout From Time Warner Cheapskates
If it's the week before New Year's, then it must be time for a battle between Time Warner Cable and one of its high-profile content providers. This time around it's Fox, which reportedly has demanded $1 per subscriber for the rights to broadcast the network after its current carriage deal ends Dec. 31. That's twice what TWC proposes, and it's an even more significant increase over the standard currently hovering between 25 cents and 50 cents. The PR war is on, naturally, centered around the one thing that pretty much all of TWC's 14 million subscribers want to know: Will this be settled in time for American Idol's season premiere Jan. 12?
The short answer is yes. Or probably. Not that the campaigns on either side are allowing for that option right now. Fox issued a press release heading into the weekend announcing a "very likely possibility that Time Warner Cable may choose to no longer carry Fox Broadcasting, Fox Cable and Fox regional sports programming" -- a fittingly Fox-esque flare of catastrophe that basically means, "Your cable bill is going up next month, TWC just needs to figure out how much." TWC responded with saber-rattling of its own, intimating that Fox was holding Idol, the NFL playoffs, the Bowl Championship Series, The Simpsons, its FX shows and essentially everything but Fox News (which is part of a separate agreement) hostage after what the provider called nine months of good faith negotiations.
In all likelihood, this will go down to the wire -- not unlike last year's TWC squabble with Viacom, which was finally settled right around the time the ball dropped in Times Square on Dec. 31. The last time the cable giant refused to blink at zero hour was in 2000, when Disney did in fact pull its networks off the air temporarily. That, too, was resolved in relatively short order after midnight. Today's tighter economy will drive harder bargains, though. After all, who wants to pay $1 for a free-to-air network that didn't even bother to keep Paula Abdul around? The nerve of these people, seriously.
· Fox says Time Warner Cable may drop Fox TV shows [Reuters]