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Sen. Kerry to TW, Fox: Strike a Deal!

Cable company’s subscribers in danger of losing programming, bowl coverage

Could New Year’s Day be coming minus the Fox network TV stations and bowl games for millions of cable subscribers?

Fearing the worst in the continuing battle between Time Warner and Fox over whether Fox should get retransmission fees and how much, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is urging both sides to quickly reach a deal.

“Fox and Time Warner need to strike a deal — millions of football fans are depending on it,” said Sen. Kerry in a statement Tuesday. “Having screens go dark because two parties couldn’t come together in time is no solution. New Year’s Day and football are synonymous in households across the nation. Private industry negotiations cannot disrupt a fundamental American tradition.”

Kerry, who heads the Senate Commerce Committee’s telecom committee, noted that Time Warner’s current agreement to retransmit Fox stations ends Dec. 31, leaving the possibility that the stations would be yanked from cable on Jan. 1, and only viewable in some major markets with antennas.

He said he had communicated his concern in a letter to Chase Carey, president-COO of News Corp. and Glenn Britt, chairman-CEO of Time Warner Cable.

“If I understand correctly, at midnight on Dec. 31, 2009, Fox content may be removed from cable systems Time Warner Cable owns,” said the letter. “This means that, in January, millions of Time Warner Cable customers around the country could lose access to the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl, as well as NFL playoff games.

“We do not want consumers waking up on the first day of the New Year wanting to watch football and instead finding that they have to take a trip to the electronics store to purchase a digital receiver in the hope that they receive a clear over the air signal,” he wrote.

“If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets,” he added.

A Fox spokesman said the company is hoping to reach a settlement.

"For months, Fox has been negotiating in good faith with Time Warner Cable. Our position in these negotiations is entirely reasonable — we are simply asking for fair compensation for the impressive value our Fox programming offers. We will continue to actively negotiate with Time Warner Cable in hopes of reaching a fair agreement," he said.