] After failing to come to an agreement over fees, Disney took WABC 7 off of Cablevision last night, leaving 3.1 million customers without ABC programming—including tonight's big Oscars telecast. The Daily News reports that, for Cablevision subscribers watching a repeat of Lost, the screen went blank and then this message appeared, "Cablevision has betrayed you again. First HGTV and Food Network, now you lost ABC-7. Enough is enough! Go to saveABC7.com to switch your service now," before going back to blank.
Some readers noticed that they lost channels 2, 4, 5, 9, and 11 for 15 minutes—it turns out that Cablevision when Cablevision was blocking WABC 7's message, it accidentally kicked off other networks. Variety (subscription required) reports that Cablevision's counter message on channel 7 read:
ABC has pulled WABC-7. Cablevision pays ABC's parent company over $200 million per year. The price you pay for TV matters. ABC is demanding $40 million more per year. We wanted to keep WABC-7 on the air. Pulling WABC off Cablevision was wrong. And we're not the only ones to think so.
We are working hard to get WABC back on the air. ABC has rejected our offers. We have agreements with CBS, NBC, Fox and Univision. We apologize for their actions. Call 1-877-NO-TV-TAX. Watch WABC-7 free over the air with a digital antenna. View ABC programming at Hulu.com or ABC.com. Thank You.
Disney, ABC 7's parent company, argues that the $200 million it receives from Cablevision is for cable channels like Disney and ESPN; Cablevision points out how ABC programming is available for free with antennas or online.
Update: According to Newsday (subscription required; also Newsday's parent company is Cablevision), WABC 7 general manager Rebecca Campbell said, "Basically, our door remains open to reach a fair and equable agreement. We talked yesterday and my understanding is that the ball is in their court." Cablevision did not get back to Newsday for comment.
And Senator John Kerry, who heads the Senate telecommunications subcomittee, wants the signal back on. He issued a letter stating:
When pulling a signal becomes the nuclear option in negotiation, it inflicts collateral damage on consumers who pay their bills and have done nothing wrong. Someone needs to be speaking up for them in this dispute and those like them, and make no mistake, this is the latest example of consumers getting caught in the middle because the high stakes incentives created in these negotiations are not working for the average customer who just expects their programming to be there when they want it.