A Federal Court Judge in Central Islip held Wednesday that a group of Cablevision subscribers who filed a $450 million dollar class action lawsuit against Cablevision after they were denied the opportunity to watch part of the 2010 World Series were allowed to proceed with their breach of contract claim in their class action lawsuit.
As a review, in October 2010, Channels WNYW a/k/a Fox 5, WWOR a/k/a the My9 Channel, WTXF a/k/a Fox 29, Fox Business, National Geographic Wild and Fox Deportes (collectively, the “Fox Channels”) requested an increase in broadcasting fees, and Cablevision refused to pay it. Cablevision instead pulled all Fox Channels from its lineup, and spent an enormous amount of money on a print, radio and television advertising campaign in an attempt to vilify the Fox Channels for failing to back down from their fee increase demand.
The Plaintiffs had enough, and filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, claiming that Cablevision bullied the Fox Channels at the expense of Cablevision’s customers. When Cablevision customers requested a partial refund for the Fox Channel blackout, they were flatly denied. Cablevision apparently forgot that its terms of service promises to give each customer a credit for every “known program or service interruption in excess of 24 consecutive hours…” (See agreement for iO TV, paragraph 4, available at http://www.optimum.net/Terms/iO).
The Plaintiffs are suing for a one-month rebate on behalf of each of the 3 million+ cablevision subscribers, who spend an average of $150 a month for service, i.e. $450 million dollars.
In Court, Cablevision’s lawyers argued that the service interruption should be treated like an act of nature and excused under a “force majeure” clause, and that Cablevision was not required to carry particular programming or give credits for the temporary removal of certain channels, only if there was a blackout of all service. But the Federal Court Judge rejected their arguments, and allowed the lawsuit to proceed on the breach of contract claim.
So what does this mean? It’s a bit too early to tell, but there’s a likely chance that Cablevision customers who were affected by the blackout can look forward to a small refund check in a couple of years (minus court costs, attorney’s fees, etc., so yeah, don’t wait by the mailbox). Hopefully their rates won’t also increase shortly thereafter.