Cablevision spits out the Food Network! Time Warner Cable and Fox go to the mat! How will the cable wars affect you? (Clue: You won’t be happy.)
Missing Michelle Obama’s Jan. 3 appearance on Iron Chef America was just the beginning of what could be a cold, Food Network-less winter for 3 million Northeastern viewers. The beloved culinary channel and sister Scripps networks such as HGTV and DIY went dark New Year’s Day after Cablevision refused the networks’ demands for what the cable company says would amount to a 200 percent increase in monthly fees it pays to Scripps. At press time there were no signs of the impasse thawing soon, as both sides continued to insist publicly that the other refused to negotiate.
The conflict came just as Time Warner Cable and Fox resolved a similar dispute that had erupted over Fox’s asking price — but hadn’t quite escalated to the point of programming interruptions. Though the terms of that deal weren’t disclosed, both tiffs raise the question: With cable channels’ leverage increasing — viewership on Food Network alone is up 42 percent the last two years — will consumers ultimately pay a price on their bills? Food Network president Brooke Johnson insists that they shouldn’t, and contends that Cablevision should eat the cost of Scripps’ demands: ”We’ve been really underpaid, and we’re asking for pennies on top of pennies. We’re trying to correct a historic mistake.” Cablevision declined to comment, but Time Warner Cable, while reluctant to commit to exact figures, says it’s a matter of basic business sense. ”Just like people pay more for gas when the price of a barrel of oil rises,” a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman says, ”the price we charge is directly affected by what we pay for programming.” An assessment that’s particularly hard to swallow in this economy, even if Paula Deen batters it up and fries it.
— Jennifer Armstrong
District 9 tries to muscle its way into the Oscar race
By naming District 9 and Star Trek alongside Oscar front-runners Avatar and Up in the Air among the 10 best films of 2009, the Producers Guild of America (often a decent Academy predictor) included three sci-fi flicks on its list. That’s certainly a testament to last year’s strong slate of action movies. But if District and Trek also make it into the Academy’s Best Picture race, could they end up killing Avatar‘s chances at a win? Surely James Cameron’s opus would lose more votes to other sci-fi contenders than to smaller indie dramas. Na’vi lovers should root for A Serious Man and The Messenger to fill out the Academy’s top 10 instead.
— Dave Karger