MediaFile

Fox vs Time Warner Cable retrans dispute could get political

AmericanIdol-Fox (Photo: Reuters)

Fox Networks went public today in what it said has been a fruitless nine-month-long carriage negotiations with Time Warner Cable, the No.2  U.S. cable company. It said there is the very real possibility that popular shows like American Idol and NFL Football could disappear from the air if you’re one of the Time Warner Cable’s nearly 14 million customers.

Fox wants to get paid for giving Time Warner Cable the right to carry its free-to-air Fox broadcast network for around $1 a subscriber every month. The talks also include negotiations for Fox’s bevy of entertainment cable networks including FX, Speed and Fuel but does not include its news networks. See Fox’s marketing campaign website keepfoxon.com here.

Time Warner Cable executives don’t want to pay a buck for so-called retransmission rights and claims it is has recently agreed to pay affiliate broadcasters  around 25 cents per sub. See Time Warner Cable’s earlier marketing campaign warning customers of programmers plans here.

Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield said in his blog (subscription required) today that in retransmission consent negotiations the side with the most leverage always wins. Usually the weaker side is the cable or satellite company as they get the calls from irate customers if their favorite shows get blacked out. What may be different this time around is that Fox leverage might be hampered by a growing political intervention risk if the Government gets involved, said Greenfield:

While Retrans negotiations are all about leverage, the benefits of leverage to a broadcaster could evaporate if the government chooses to get involved going forward – in turn, a fine line must be walked.  Remember, broadcasters are using public spectrum to broadcast and a now Democratic-majority FCC may not be as willing to let consumers pay the penalty for retrans battles the way prior administrations did (whether it be via higher video pricing and/or signal loss).  We are actually quite surprised at how openly (and aggressively) the senior executives of the four major (owned and operated) station groups are talking about retrans – as we would fear that the government would begin to look at them as a cartel.

The worst vacation ever

It’s just like vacation — except that you don’t get paid and really don’t have any choice in the matter and will likely spend the days worrying this could be a hint of (bad) things to come.

Some staffers at Gannett Co, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, will be forced to take a week off without pay in its latest move to cut costs. Already, it has cut thousands of jobs, says this furlough will help it avoid more layoffs.

Here’s what Reuters reported:

“This means that most of our U.S. employees — including myself and all other top executives — will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter,” Dubow wrote.

Fox chief: American Idol results shows were boring

Update: I made some changes here. The folks at Fox say that Tony Vinciquerra said he found the results shows in season seven boring — not the finale. They were right and I was wrong. Here is the entry, with my corrections (I rewrote the headline too.

You can’t say that Fox Chief Executive Tony Vinciquerra isn’t clear about what he wants from the American Idol staff. In short: he wants a less boring season finale with more interesting coaches for the contestants… and while we’re at it, more interesting contestants.

Talk about tough love from the big boss!

Here is what Vinciquerra said at a conference earlier on Wednesday when asked about News Corp’s Fox Network and the popular show that turns ordinary people into super-celebrities: The season seven finale (no — the result shows) were boring.

Fox: King of the world!

strike.jpgTV strike? What TV strike?

Seems that Fox survived the 14-week writers strike, and arguably thrived if you stack its prime-time ratings up against major broadcast networks. It has  finished the season as the undisputed ratings leader for the first time, thanks to a combination of the Super Bowl and that little talent show known as “American Idol.”

Sure, “American Idol” ended its latest run with year-to-year declines in both overall audience and ratings for viewers aged 18 to 49 – and the show notched some record ratings lows this season. But let’s be honest here, it’s coming off pretty tough comparisons.

Even if the talent show is fading a bit, the network has built a strong supporting cast around “American Idol,” one that includes “House,” “Bones,” and “24,” which will be back next year after the strike kept it off the schedule this season.

Anyone want some cash back?

dollars.jpgTake that Google!

Microsoft, in a bid to win share of the search market from Google and Yahoo, now plans to offer a new “cashback” service that provides a rebate when users buy something they found searching with Windows Live.

Chairman Bill Gates’ announcement of the rebate plan is the latest loud and clear sign of how much importance Microsoft is placing on advertising. (It apparently has been in talks with a company named, ummm, Yahoo, about just this).

“This is giving you a reason why you should use a particular search engine,” Gates said at the company’s Advance 08 advertising conference.