Carmen Electra caught up in News Corp.-Time Warner Cable fight


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Don’t panic if you’re watching Fox’s New Year’s Eve special and the screen goes black moments before host Carmen Electra finishes screaming “Happy New Year.” There’s nothing wrong with your TV. You’re just caught in a brawl between two media giants.

With less than 48 hours to go, News Corp.’s Fox and Time Warner Cable are still trying to hammer out a deal that will keep Fox’s local TV stations and many of its cable channels on Time Warner Cable. At issue are the fees that News Corp., is demanding Time Warner Cable pay for transmitting its Fox stations — including KTTV and KCOP in Los Angeles — as well as cable networks such as FX, Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket.


Both sides are still meeting, with Time Warner Cable executives, who flew in from New York earlier this week, huddled at the tony Peninsula Hotel while the Fox team camps at their Century City lot.

There is more at risk here than just Fox losing some viewers and advertising revenue and Carmen Electra screaming to blank screens if the Fox signal goes off Time Warner Cable systems in New York and Los Angeles.

If Fox pulls the plug here and in other big cities, viewers will have to scramble to find an alternative service, or risk missing the network’s coverage of important college football games, including the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl. If the spat drags on, fans of “American Idol,” “24” and “House” may be out of luck too.
“This isn’t good public relations for either company,” warned Andy Donchin, director of media investments for advertising firm Carat, whose clients include Radio Shack and Papa John’s International Inc. “Ultimately, whatever agreement they come to, the consumer will pay for it.”

Specifically, Fox seeks $1 per subscriber to carry its TV stations, people involved in the talks said. That’s in the range charged by TNT and Disney Channel, but much less than the $4-per-subscriber fee that ESPN commands.

Fox says on a website set up to argue its side of the dispute that the fee it’s seeking is reasonable. “Fox attracts more viewers than the five most expensive cable networks combined (ESPN, TNT, USA, ESPN2 and NFL Net),” proclaims the site.

Time Warner Cable said the fees Fox is seeking are “unreasonable and excessive, especially in this economic climate.” The company has countered with an offer closer to 30 cents per subscriber, people familiar with the matter said. Industry analysts expect that Fox will settle for 50 cents to 70 cents per subscriber.


For a look at the bigger picture and how viewers are caught in the middle of this battle of media titans, see our story here. For Carmen’s sake and those who will have to write about this at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, let’s hope peace prevails.

-- Joe Flint

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