Fox, Time Warner Cable Reach Carriage Agreement

News Corp. and Time Warner Cable on have agreed on a new deal that will keep the Fox broadcast network and a number of cable channels on the operator’s menu.

After a pair of extensions allowed both sides to negotiate past the midnight deadline, an agreemnet was finally struck early Friday evening (Jan. 1).

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Heading into the December talks, Fox had been looking to secure a retransmission consent fee of $1 per subscriber per month. Time Warner Cable balked at that amount, offering instead a retrans payment between 25 cents and 30 cents per sub.

In the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day, analysts predicted that Fox would likely settle on a retrans fee of around 50 cents to 60 cents, on par with what CBS has been able to command from its cable and satellite distributors.

Should Fox have gone dark, some 13 million Time Warner subs in markets like New York and Los Angeles would have lost the signal to the broadcast  net and cable channels like FX and the Fox Sports RSNs. (News Corp.’s Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network have separate carriage agreements and were not at risk of having thier feeds pulled.)

In a joint statement released Friday evening, the two parties said they have “agreed in principle to a comprehensive distribution agreement,” one that also includes carriage for Bright House Networks’ 2 million customers.

“We’re pleased that, after months of negotiations, we were able to reach a fair agreement with Time Warner Cable–one that recognizes the value of our programming,” said Chase Carey, deputy chairman, president and COO, News Corp.

Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt characterized the new deal as “reasonable,” but offered no insight into the terms.

The agreement may be seen as a victory for the broadcast networks, which are hoping to replicate the dual-revenue stream model that has kept cable afloat in times when the advertising marketplace is particularly rickity. Operators have resisted paying for retrans consent, arguing that broadcast signals should remain as free as they were in the days of rabbit-ears and rooftop antennae.

Both companies in the last several days began to draw flack from Washington, as the feud threatened to put the bite on millions of college football fans. Earlier in the week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski issued statements urging both sides to agree on an extension.

If detente had not been reached, tonight’s Sugar Bowl matchup between Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators and the Cincinnati Bearcats would have been blacked out on Fox flagship WNYW-5 in New York, as well as KTTV-11 and KCOP-13 in Los Angeles.

The agreement comes just hours after Scripps Networks yanked HGTV and Food Network from TWC neighbor Cablevision. Scripps was said to be looking for a slight carriage-fee increase, saying that as a top-tier programmer, it deserves more money for its flagship channels.

Both HGTV and Food Net are among the top 15 basic-cable channels in prime time. HGTV’s carriage fee is believed to be around 15 cents per sub per month, while Food Net  takes in around 8 cents to 10 cents a head.

Cablevision on Friday slammed the door on Scripps, suggesting that it would not return either channel to its lineup.: “We wish Scripps well and have no expectation of carrying their programming again, given the dramatic changes in their approach to working with distributors.”