Fox, Time Warner Cable Agree to ‘Brief Extension’

Football is saved—for now!

Minutes before Fox and several News Corp. cable channels, including FX and Speed, were to go dark on Time Warner Cable’s East Coast systems, the two sides agreed to “a brief extension” to their carriage agreement, which expires at midnight Dec. 31.

The three-hour extension was granted so the two sides can continue their ongoing negotiations.

It was followed by a second extension that pushed the talks between Fox and TWC past midnight Pacific Time.

The extensions come after appeals from several politicians, including Sen. John Kerry, for Fox to accept an interim agreement and keep its networks on TWC systems while negotiations go on.

If Fox went dark, Kerry had vowed to get the FCC “to intervene and mandate continued coverage and arbitration.”

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday also “urged Fox and Time Warner Cable to agree to a temporary extension of carriage if they do not come to terms on a new carriage agreement today, in order to prevent disruption to their viewers.”

“Companies shouldn’t force cable-watching football fans to scramble for other means of TV delivery on New Year’s weekend,” he said.

Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, Fox is set to air the four major college bowls as well as the Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles NFL game.

“We’ve done everything we can to reach a fair agreement and now it’s really up to Fox,” TWC chairman and CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement Thursday night. “We hope they will agree to a deal that’s reasonable for everyone.”

For a brief period around 2 a.m. ET/11 p.m. PT, it seemed like a deal had been reached. It turned out that TWC had accidentally run ads announcing an agreement before a pact had been struck.

The two sides have been squabbling over retransmission consent fees for Fox, with the network insisting on $1 per subscriber per month, while TWC keeping its counteroffers to less than 50 cents.

Fox-TWC wasn’t the only New Year’s Eve carriage standoff.

TWC also received brief extensions from Scripps Networks Interactive, which yanked its suite of cable channels, including Food Network, from Cablevision, depriving the operator’s 3 million subscribers in the Tri-Star area.

Meanwhile, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mediacom extended their own talks on retransmission consent by eight days, which could eventually affect 22 stations in 12 markets.