As the blackout of the CW affiliate in a large portion of the New York market settles into its fifth week, a top Cablevision executive has signaled that
the cable operator feels little pressure to restore the channel to its system. Tribune-owned WPIX has been unavailable in Cablevision homes since mid-August.
Four other Tribune local stations are off the Cablevision systems in far fewer homes in other markets. The CW’s new season launches Oct. 1 with a music festival as the network launches three new shows and the final season of “Gossip Girl.”
Cablevision and the Tribune group are wrangling over the carriage fees Cablevison would pay to offer WPIX. The dispute could prove an interesting test case on how much younger viewers consume TV via other platforms. With CW series available online, a consumer push to restore the channel to Cablevision could be somewhat muted.
The New York market accounts for about 6% of the country, and Cablevision serves a wide swath of homes, not that far below half.
Cablevision recently concluded a carriage deal with CBS, which offers higher-rated programming to an older audience. Unlike, WPIX at the moment, it has high-profile sports events. Cablevision CFO Gregg Seibert said the CBS deal was concluded in a “non-confrontational” way.
Last week at an investor event, Seibert added that “WPIX doesn’t provide the type of value in our marketplace that CBS provides by any stretch," adding that he did want to "overpay for product that’s not important to our customers.
Seibert called it a "balance," adding that the company would prefer "to have no
product off the air at any point in time, but sometimes we just have to draw the line.”
Of course, during the dispute, a Cablevision executive would not be expected to cite the lack of WPIX as a crushing blow.
Cablevision continues to fight in Washington for reform to the structure that has operators paying to carry broadcast stations, known as retransmission consent. “It does feel to me that something has to give, but I don’t know when that occurs,” he said.
Cablevision, separately, recently debuted a refreshed logo and branding material for its Optimum service. “It’s really the front line of the transition of the company from being acquisition-oriented and promotional to being retention-oriented and brand specific,” Seibert said.
Cablevision has been looking to forestall any customer loss to Verizon FiOS.