Food Network and HGTV blackout from Scripps
It was a bizarre New Year’s Eve for many cable providers. Maybe in the future, the networks can make the expiration dates slated after the New Year celebrations. In a statement issued at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, Scripps said the channels “went off the air on Cablevision systems in New York City, Long Island and the Tri-State Region at midnight New Year’s Eve after the cable operator failed to negotiate acceptable rates for the programming distribution rights.”
On Cablevision Systems in New Jersey, the MSO is running this message on both HGTV and Food: “We wanted to keep bringing you these channels. We apologize for the inconvenience… Why? Cablevision has tried to reach a fair agreement.” A similar message was running on Cablevision’s system reaching Westchester County, New York.
At the UBS Global Media and Communications conference last month, Scripps Networks chairman and CEO Ken Lowe had said the programmer would seek substantial increases for Food Network. In a statement, Lowe said that Scripps is enlisting the help of viewers to pressure the MSO to carry the network, encouraging them to make demands for Cablevision to put the networks back on the air.
“Viewers love our talent and our shows, which is why Food Network and HGTV rank among the top networks in cable,” Lowe said in a statement. “But our valuable networks simply are not being compensated like top ten networks by Cablevision. The distribution rates Cablevision pays for Food and HGTV are among the lowest in the industry.”
For its part, Cablevision said in a statement that it is disappointed it could not reach an agreement with Scripps, but will not bow to pressure:
“Unfortunately, Scripps has decided to stop distributing HGTV and Food Network to Cablevision customers upon the expiration of our current agreement at midnight, Dec. 31,” Cablevision said in a statement. “We are sorry that Scripps’ current financial difficulties are making it impossible for them to continue our relationship on terms that are reasonable for Cablevision and our customers. We wish Scripps well and have no expectation of carrying their programming again, given the dramatic changes in their approach to working with distributors to reach television viewers.”
While Scripps has not revealed how much of an increase it is requesting, the programmer said it is currently receiving less than 25 cents per subscriber per month from Cablevision for both channels. The company added that a recent Beta Cable Subscriber study said the average cable customer believes Food Network is worth $1.03 per month and HGTV is worth 73 cents per month. Scripps added that is considerably more than Cablevision is paying and more than SNI is asking on behalf of the networks in current negotiations.