Cablevision to Fans: You're Out

The cable-TV battle over the Yankees struck out nearly 3 million New York-area subscribers yesterday when they were barred from watching the Bombers on Opening Day.

And execs from Cablevision and the Yankees' YES Network said privately last night there was little chance the Bombers blackout will end soon, after a last-ditch negotiating session yesterday broke up bitterly after just 15 minutes.

Cablevision chief executive James Dolan, who refuses to pay YES' fees to carry 130 regular-season games, promised to make up for the debacle by issuing a rebate to his 2.9 million New York-area subscribers.

"We understand that diehard Yankees fans are disappointed and are not satisfied," Dolan said.

YankeeNets - the company through which George Steinbrenner controls the Yankees - launched the YES network in hope of pulling in subscriber fees of more than $160 million a year by charging cable companies an average of $1.85 per subscriber.

But Cablevision's refusal to go along has the potential to put a $70 million hole in Steinbrenner's plan.

Hopes of a breakthrough rose early yesterday as YES chief Leo Hindery met with Dolan at the YES offices in the Chrysler Building.

But the confab ended abruptly 15 minutes later, with Dolan refusing to budge from his view that Cablevision would only carry YES as a premium service, not as part of its basic package.

Hindery did not want to comment on the meeting, but issued a brief statement saying he was "extremely disappointed."

YES is running advertisements in New York newspapers today, blaming Cablevision for the blackout by pointing out that it has done deals with 25 other cable and satellite companies.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, who helped put together yesterday's meeting, said Mayor Bloomberg, who threw out the first pitch at the Mets opener at Shea Stadium, should step in and try to get both sides back to the negotiating table.

Cablevision has more than 500,000 households in The Bronx and Brooklyn and almost a half-million in Nassau County. The city administers the relevant franchise agreements for Brooklyn and The Bronx, which run until 2008, but says it has no authority to intervene.

Without YES, a fan can see only the 20 games carried on WCBS/Channel 2, nine Saturday games on Fox affiliate WNYW/Channel 5, and three Sunday night games on ESPN.