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Fox Grants 'Brief Extension' in Cable Dispute

Fox versus Time Warner

An advertisement released by Time Warner Cable claims that FOX has threatened to pull the plug on TWC customers at midnight, New Year's Eve, unless the cable company gives in to demands for massive price increases. (Time Warner Cable)

LOS ANGELES -- The Fox television network allowed its programs to be carried by Time Warner Cable viewers in the United States after a brief extension past a midnight deadline was granted as talks over fees continued.

Time Warner Cable Inc. made the announcement as the clock rolled past midnight Thursday on the East Coast. Fox programs include "The Simpsons" and "American Idol."

The extension for just a few hours made it appear likely that a deal would be reached so that viewers would not lose access to highly anticipated programs Friday's Sugar Bowl and other college and pro football games.

Fox had threatened to pull the signal from 14 TV stations it owns, a move that would have affected more than 6 million customers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida.

The dispute focuses on how much Fox is paid by cable companies to retransmit those stations' signals.

Six Fox cable channels including FX, Speed and Fuel, were still being distributed as carriage arrangements on those did not expire until midnight Pacific time.

Time Warner Cable and a smaller cable TV operator, Bright House Networks, have resisted paying a new $1 monthly fee per subscriber that News Corp. is demanding from both operators.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt has called the fee demand excessive and said the cable operator has reached deals for "much lower" rates with Fox affiliates -- stations that carry Fox programming but are owned by other companies.

Fox has said it needs subscription revenue to supplement the advertising revenues that have supported its broadcast network up until now.

Separately, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns broadcast stations in markets as large as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, agreed to an eight-day extension for cable TV operator Mediacom Communications Corp. to carry Sinclair's Fox and CBS stations. Mediacom will pay Sinclair a higher rate than it was paying under a contract that also was expiring at midnight Thursday.

But in a sign of how talks can go awry, Cablevision Systems Corp. said early Friday that it had failed to reach a deal to continue carrying HGTV and Food Network for its 3.1 million subscribers in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, adding it had no expectation of carrying the signals again. The channels are owned by Cincinnati-based Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.