SOCCER-ENGLAND/

We were not completely surprised when Fox Soccer Channel went dark on Sunday afternoon while we were watching West Ham take on Chelsea. (It’s not that the cable bills hadn’t been paid). Seemed the most likely cause was the  really bad snowstorm here in New York and the rest of the U.S. northeast.

But when we noticed that Fox Soccer Espanol, Speed Channel and, for a short while, FX were also down…  well, we couldn’t help wonder if the ruckus between Time Warner Cable and Fox Networks had come to a head and that the great dark screen battle of 2010 had started early.  (Adding to our conspiracy theory: Fox’s news channels were unaffected yesterday, and neither Fox News nor Fox Business are part of the current carriage fisticuffs between TWC and Fox. Hmmmm).

After all, Fox said last week that TWC might pull its broadcast network and entertainment channels because they’ve been unable to reach agreement on fees. TWC for its part thinks Fox wants too much money. And both sides are running marketing campaigns slamming the other. So the idea that everything went black because of a their dispute wasn’t all that farfetched.

But our suspicions were wrong:  We’ve been assured by a TWC spokesman that it was a small and temporary problem with the Fox channels was indeed weather-related and not a test-run of what a blackout would look like.

It could still go all dark on Dec 31st when the Fox contracts expire. But neither side wants that to happen and they’ll likely come to agreement in the early hours of 2010 as TWC did with Viacom last year.