New York-Area Cablevision Viewers Lose Their ABC

by | March 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM | TV News

'Lost' (ABC)

'Lost' (ABC)

Cablevision subscribers in the nation’s top TV market saw WABC-7 go black at 12:01 Sunday morning – right in the middle of the station’s weekly ‘Lost’ rebroadcast – as talks between the cable provider and ABC’s parent company remained at a standstill.

Technically, WABC-7 isn’t black; instead, Cablevision subcribers in the New York area are being met with a series of title cards while a voiceover explains the lack of signal – from the carrier’s point-of-view, of course.

“We know you are tired of these conflicts with big programming companies, like ABC, who want to drive up our costs and your cable TV bill; we are too,” begins the message.

At issue is the retransmission consent fee ABC wants from Cablevision for the right to carry WABC-7. Cablevision claims that ABC is seeking a “$40 million increase” annually, or about one dollar per subscriber. Cablevision in turn is offering about 25 cents, says the Hollywood Reporter.

ABC maintains it is merely seeking a fair fee to be paid from Cablevision’s hefty coffers. “Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year, and now customers aren’t getting what they pay for… again,” says Rebecca Campbell, WABC’s President and General Manager, alluding to a similar standoff that in January found HGTV and Food TV pulled from Cablevision for three weeks.

Citing this latest dispute as further evidence of “Cablevision’s legendary greed and disregard for the needs of their customers,” Campbell urges fans of ABC fare to “switch to a provider that cares about them [and] make that switch now,” lest they miss out on, say, Sunday night’s telecast of the Academy Awards. Or Monday’s return of ‘Castle.’ Or Tuesday’s new episode of ‘Lost.’

Frantic ABC fans in the tri-state area may have some success in seeking out an over-the-air signal by employing some good ol’ “rabbit ears” or, Cablevision itself suggests, “a digital TV antenna from your local consumer electronics store.”

Noting that is has the backing of “over 70 elected officials at the local, state and federal level,” Cablevision is positioning ABC as the bad guy for pulling the signal in the midst of good faith negotiations. Says the on-screen message to viewers, “We are working hard to get WABC-7 back on the air while we continue to negotiate a fair deal.”