Viewers Sue Cablevision for $450M

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Cablevision is being sued by subscribers who are upset that they haven’t had access to Fox for close to two weeks, due to the cable provider’s failure resolve its fees dispute with its owner News Corp.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in White Plains, N.Y., “seeks restitution for Cablevision’s 3 million customers who have been deprived of Fox channels, which have been replaced by Cablevision’s annoying and self-serving loop, which whines about News Corp.’s supposed failure to negotiate in good faith.”

The plaintiffs are suing Cablevision for $450 million, or the equivalent of one month's cable bill for the company's collective subscribers, as well as punitive damages.

As reported, News Corp blacked out its basic cable Fox Broadcasting channel at midnight on Oct. 16 after it failed to resolve the dispute over the cable provider’s annual fees. The conflict has left New York, New Jersey and Connecticut subscribers without access to Fox (and consequently the World Series, House, The Simpsons and Glee’s Rocky Horror episode) for the past 13 days.

On Wednesday, News Corp rejected a one-year offer from Cablevision that would have paid the media company the same rate that Time Warner Cable is paying for retransmission of Fox's signals. The rate would have been more than Cablevision pays for any other New York broadcast station.

News Corp said that it rejected the since the dispute also involves other New Corp channels Business Network, NatGeo Wild and Fox Deportes, as well as the New York station, My 9.

"Cablevision is seeking a discounted 'package rate' without buying the entire package," Fox, a unit of News Corp, said in a statement, which went on to call the offer "yet another in a long line of publicity stunts."

The rejection forced Cablevision to offer its customers a $10 reimbursement, which would cover the cost of paying to watch the games online through MLB.com.

Cablevision responded in a statement of their own that Fox's rejection showed "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Fox is negotiating "in bad faith."

While which party is more at fault remains debatable, we can’t help but point out that perhaps Cablevision subscribers should be going after the real perpetrator of this blackout: the New York Yankees. Had the notorious team made into the World Series, NewsCorp and Cablevision may have felt more pressure from subscribers to get the disagreement settled.

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