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Sugar Bowl still held hostage for some TV watchers

Sarah Hoye The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 24, 2013 at 12:29 AM

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TAMPA -

It's starting to feel like a soap opera.

Drama is building while Fox News Corporation and Time Warner tussle over Fox's attempt to get Time Warner Cable to pay $1 per subscriber to carry most Fox programming.

The current contract expires at midnight Thursday. If an agreement isn't reached, Fox is threatening to pull its programming from Time Warner, which includes popular shows like "The Simpson's," "American Idol" and, perhaps most painful to sports fans, Friday's Sugar Bowl matchup between quarterback Tim Tebow's University of Florida Gators and the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Fox News is handled by a separate contract and would not be affected.

Locally, the contract squabble could affect Bright House subscribers because Time Warner provides programming for Bright House.

Last-minute contract negotiations are common, but the difference this time is that the tiff is happening in public, said Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin. Fox News Corporation has been using newspaper and television ads to state its case; Time Warner has similarly launched a public relations offensive stating its side.

Bright House officials are stressing they're not the ones proposing to pull the plug on Fox.

"It's Fox and Fox alone who will decide if Bright House will carry the signal," Durkin said.

"An agreement is going to made with Fox, whether we do it today or whether we do it after the 31st, an agreement is going to be reached," Durkin said. "The only question is will Fox allow Bright House to carry their signal past deadline."

Fox News in New York did not return calls for an interview.

In the latest negotiations, the Fox broadcast network rejected an offer from Time Warner Cable to submit to binding arbitration in a dispute over fees. The company did not directly address an offer by Time Warner to continue to carry its signal while talks continue.

Chase Carey, chief operating officer of Fox owner News Corp., said the issue needs to be settled at the bargaining table and not through a third party.

Carey told staff in a memo earlier in the day that a signal interruption was likely when the current deal over fees expires at midnight Thursday.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reporter Sarah Hoye can be reached at (813) 259-7832.

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