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Oscars: Cablevision customers in New York area may miss ceremony this weekend

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Some 3 million Cablevision customers in the top TV market in the United States — Long Island, Westchester, Brooklyn, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey — could miss this weekend’s Oscar telecast if the cable company doesn’t reach a re-transmission agreement with WABC-TV Channel 7. Starting today, the ABC-owned station began running on-air alerts that warn subscribers of an impending blackout that could start at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday unless a new deal is reached. Affected subscribers who don’t want to miss the awards show will have options, including receiving WABC-TV the old-fashioned way, free and over-the-air.

ABC released this statement today on behalf of Rebecca Campbell, WABC-TV’s President and General Manager: “With the help of our viewers, we’ve built ABC7 into the most watched station in the country, and have been trying for two years to get Cablevision to acknowledge the station’s value to their business. Despite our best efforts, it has now become clear that Cablevision has no intention of coming to a fair agreement. We can no longer sit back and allow Cablevision to use our shows for free while they continue to charge their customers for them. We’ve worked too hard and invested too many millions of dollars in programming and community outreach, to be taken advantage of any longer – especially since our viewers can watch their favorite ABC7 shows free, over-the-air, or by switching to one of Cablevision’s competitors.”

A similar standoff occurred late last year between Time Warner and Fox, but it was resolved in January.

UPDATE: Cablevision responded with this statement from Charles Schueler, an exec VP of communications and community relations: “It is shocking that in these difficult economic times, ABC Disney is threatening to remove WABC unless Cablevision and its customers pay $40 million in new fees for programming that it offers today for free, both over-the-air and online. It is not fair for ABC Disney to hold Cablevision customers hostage by forcing them to pay what amounts to a new TV tax. We urge ABC Disney not to pull the plug and instead work withus to reach a fair agreement.”

A similar standoff occurred late last year between Time Warner and Fox, but it was resolved in January.

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