Cablevision, Scripps Reach Detente

Three weeks after a carriage brawl punched a hole in Cablevision’s channel lineup, the MSO and Scripps Networks Interactive have reached a deal to return Food Network and HGTV to some 3.1 million Cablevision subscribers.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

As is always the case with soured affiliate relations, the bone of contention in the Cablevision-SNI fight had to do with pricing and leverage. While Scripps Nets did not address the specific dollar amount it required for carriage of Food Net and HGTV, the company revealed that under the terms of its expired contract, the operator paid 25 cents per month per subscription for the combined networks.

Shortly after SNI pulled the plug on Jan. 1, Cablevision charged that the programmer was looking to secure a “200 percent fee increase” for Food Net and HGTV. If Scripps Nets had landed that 75 cents sub fee, Cablevision’s monthly payment would have soared from $775,000 to $2.33 million.

UBS analyst Michael Morris surmised that Cablevision and SNI likely met halfway, with the MSO agreeing to pay a monthly fee of 49 cents per sub, in line with the terms of the programmer’s other carriage deals. If that is the case, Cablevision’s monthly tab is now $1.52 million.

As the new year dawned, Cablevision intimated that it had no intention of returning the two networks to its channel roster. Both sides eventually returned to the table, but the contentiousness that characterized the negotiations was evident throughout.

The feud spilled over into the public sphere, but it was a quiet development that suggested that Cablevision and SNI were engaged in some sort of blood sport. After its carriage deal with the nation’s second-largest cable operator expired on Dec. 31, SNI granted Time Warner Cable a temporary extension; as such, none of TWC’s 13 million subs lost access to any of the SNI properties. Meanwhile, Cablevision customers lost their Food and HGTV feeds at the stroke of midnight.

Both players said they were pleased with the final outcome. “This is the resolution everyone wanted,” said John Lansing, executive vp of Scripps Networks Interactive and president of the company’s Scripps Networks lifestyle media division. “Cablevision has been a valued distribution partner and we’re gratified that together we were able to reach a successful conclusion that will benefit their customers and viewers of our networks.”

Meanwhile, Cablevision expressed its appreciation for its loyal sub base, which per Oppenheimer estimates, account for around 2 percent of Food Network’s overall deliveries. “We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we worked with Scripps to reach an agreement that is fair,” said John Bickham, Cablevision’s president of cable and communications. “Food Network and HGTV have strong and loyal followings and we are pleased that both channels are back where they belong on Cablevision.”