The battle between Tribune Company and Cablevision over retransmission fees has left Cablevision subscribers without access to PIX11 and Mets fans without television coverage of their favorite team. While most Mets games are on SNY, weekend games are often broadcast on PIX11, as was the case for last night's game as well as this afternoon's match-up against the Nationals.
While broadcast networks can be picked up over-the-air using an antenna, cable operators like Cablevision typically negotiate deals in order to carry broadcast channels on their pay lineup, the same way they do for cable networks like ESPN, SNY, and so forth. These deals are usually structured around a monthly per-customer fee which the cable operator pays to the network who owns the channels. Smaller, less popular channels may charge a few pennies per customer while must-have staples like ESPN can charge a dollar or more. Tribune is asking for $.30 per customer per month.
Tribune, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008, had a similar dispute with DirecTV back in March which left DirecTV's 19 million subscribers without Tribune programming. The two sides reached a five-year agreement just in time for Opening Day, the financial details of which were not made public. That dispute is perhaps the closest analog to the current Tribune-Cablevision stand-off, although the party responsible for pulling programming from the air in that case was Tribune, whereas this time it was the cable operator who yanked the plug.
I don't know enough about the situation to say who's at fault here. We don't know how much Tribune charges other carriers, like DirecTV or Time Warner, to retransmit their programming, nor do we know if Cablevision has countered Tribune's offer of $.30 per subscriber or if they're insisting on paying nothing for PIX11, etc. I suspect culpability is ultimately divided between the two media corporations, but unless or until we have those details I'll just remain angry at both sides.
At all events, Mets fans are the ones losing out until this disagreement has been settled. In the meantime, you do have some options to catch Mets games:
- Listen to them on WFAN.
- Pick up a cheapo antenna and watch PIX11 over-the-air.
- Follow along at MLB.com via Gameday.
- Watch the game on MLB.tv using a proxy server.
- Go to a local tavern (one that has DirecTV, Dish Network, etc.) to watch the game with friends.
If you want to yell at someone over this, you can read Cablevision's side of the story and follow them on Twitter at @CablevisionInfo. Alternatively, you can take Tribune's word for it and follow @WPIX on Twitter.