Retrans Fallout: Fox Loses Political Dollars

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With News Corp. and Cablevision continuing their standoff in New York, the local Fox station is bleeding political dollars, putting competitors in a position to grab share as Election Day nears.

Well-funded candidates Sen. Charles Schumer and Linda McMahon are among those canceling lucrative buys with WNYW/Channel 5, which is off the air in Cablevision homes, thanks to the carriage dispute.

Shortly after the Oct. 16 blackout of WNYW, candidates pulled back plans to air spots, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, that would run until voters go to the polls on Nov. 2, station records show. While canceling on Fox, the candidates also halted plans to persuade voters on News Corp.'s MyNetworkTV station in New York, WWOR.

A sales executive working for both stations tried to convince the campaigns to keep the political dollars flowing. The monies are crucial; they beef up revenue every two years, while tightening inventory, leading to higher prices for other advertisers.

The Fox/MyNetworkTV sales executive wrote in an email that he told Schumer's campaign the stations still each reach 57% of the market. But he said Schumer wants them off the air until "we are back at 100% DMA coverage." Schumer's agency had already sent payments, and asked that they be returned, according to the email.

Another time, a buyer for Dan Malloy (running for Connecticut governor) and Eric Schneiderman (for New York attorney general) requested a full cancellation. Hoping to persuade the campaigns to stay, the sales executive sent along a letter from the general manager of WNYW/WWOR blasting Cablevision.

Sen. Schumer canceled both stations for the Oct. 19-Nov. 2 period; records show the amount is close to $149,000, with all but $7,200 to run on Fox/Channel 5. However, the sales executive indicated in an email the figure would be close to $200,000.

Schumer booked a run of $3,800 spots on the Fox 10 p.m. news. That amount is known as the "lowest unit rate," meaning it's the cheapest amount for a particular placement on the station -- and candidates are entitled to that price by law.

For McMahon, a note on one of her planned schedules lists "Cable Vision Situation" as a reason for an aborted buy. She pulled orders for the Oct. 19-Nov. 2 period, which were worth $98,000 at the Fox station, according to records.

Records also show Malloy canceled a buy on WNYW for about $60,000 from Oct. 19-25, and for an additional $7,500 on WWOR.

Both stations are owned and operated by News Corp., which is battling with Cablevision over how much the cable operator will pay to offer WNYW and WWOR. Until they agree or issue a ceasefire, the channels are off the air.

Also potentially troubling for the stations, as of earlier this week: New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo had not placed any buys on Fox or MyNetworkTV past Tuesday. Neither had Connecticut Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal past Oct. 24.

Not all candidates have moved away from Fox and MyNetworkTV in the country's largest market. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand continues to air on WNYW, including a spot booked at $40,000 for "Glee" on Oct. 26. The spot ran, but Fox would not comment on whether the station reduced the price, since it is not available in 43% of the DMA.

New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino also had a schedule on Fox running through Wednesday.

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