Tennis Channel-Cablevision Scuffle: Media Noise Like Ripping Backhand

Business dealings between cable operators and young. up-and-coming programmers are like boxing, not tennis, matches: visible damage can be seen.

Cable programmers believe they have a right to be everywhere -- especially on cable systems with a near-monopoly on traditional landline TV distribution. But cable operators believe if a business deal isn't right, it doesn't matter how powerful a TV programmer is in a specific market.

This brings us to the still-young cable and satellite subscriber Tennis Channel, which can't seem to crack the code of getting on Cablevision Systems Corp.'s cable systems after four years. Things have now come to a head because Tennis Channel is airing early rounds of the upcoming U.S. Open, which is in Cablevision's backyard in Flushing, New York.

So Tennis Channel does what some programmers have done in the past -- take out some print ads  to build consumer sentiment.  "Thanks for nothing Cablevision," says the ad, which shows a tennis racket smashing a cable box. The New York Times, New York Post, Daily News, Westchester-Rockland Journal News and the Record of New Jersey ran the ads. But not Newsday, which happens to be owned by, yes, Cablevision.



Sure, Tennis Channel has some arguments here. It is only 14 to 15 cents a subscriber, less than other sports channels like the Golf Channel, ESPNU and the Fox Soccer Channel.

But this isn't the 1990s. Cable's pseudo-monopoly isn't what it used to be. There's satellite, IPTV, and other digital video platforms to consider. Yes, those outlets may not have cable's widespread distribution, but that's just business in 2009.

The Tennis Channel executives were probably dreaming to think t the in-your-face media buy would pass muster at Newsday. Ken Solomon, the chief executive of the Tennis Channel, told the Times the ad was "a court of last resort."

However, Newsday should show some independence from its parent, editorially speaking. It should weigh in on this story.

Media platforms will typically reject ads that have the potential to hurt other parties. But this ad is closer to home -- attacking the newspaper's parent company. Try to buy a TV ad on ABC with the message that Disney sucks.

No matter, though. You can always get some press when the ad doesn't run.

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