Cablevision customers Julia Gallo, Andrew Koplik and Dorothy Rabsey filed a class action lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of over 3 million Cablevision subscribers against Cablevision, claiming its negotiation strategy with Fox caused a material and substantial detriment to its customers, to the tune of almost half a billion dollars.
On October 16, 2010, Cablevision pulled 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”) from its broadcast lineup, as the Fox Channels had requested an increase in broadcasting fees, and Cablevision has thus far refused to pay it. The lawsuit claims that Cablevision “played a game of chicken” with the Fox Channels, and failed to engage in constructive negotiations prior to the expiration of their contract deadline, causing the current blackout mess. When the Fox Channels failed to back down from its request for a fee increase, Cablevision let their contract expire, and replaced the Fox Channels with “an annoying, self-serving loop” which berates the Fox Channels for trying to “extort unreasonable and unfair fee increases” from Cablevision. In addition, Cablevision has spent an enormous amount of money on a print, radio and television advertising campaign attempting to vilify the Fox Channels for their failure to back down from their fee increase demand.
Some Cablevision customers have had enough. The Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, claiming that Cablevision is bullying the Fox Channels at the expense of Cablevision’s customers, and they are now deprived of the Fox Channels’ “distinctive viewpoint in the political speech arena” with only days to go before statewide elections, as well as coverage of the World Series, Glee, House, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Dr. Oz, Good Day New York, The World Series, New York Giants Football, and many more.
With revenues in excess of $4 billion annually, Cablevision is refusing to provide any rebates whatsoever to its customers, despite its terms of service, which promises to give each customer a credit for each “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 seeking a one-month rebate on behalf of each of the 3 million+ cablevision customers, who spend an average of $150 a month for service. Cablevision responded to news of the suit by saying “News Corp. is the company that deserves a lawsuit, for blacking out the World Series in three million New York area homes. The FCC has all the facts and our customers are demanding that the FCC act to end the FOX blackout.”