Cablevision vs. WABC drama: Oscar TV blackout shouldn't be in the script
INT. AWARDS HALL -- NIGHT
Packed house of luminaries, each more beautiful than the next.
CLOSE on AGING MOVIE STAR bent over at the podium.
AGING MOVIE STAR
And the Oscar for pettiness between cable and network broadcasters goes to ... WABC of New York and Cablevision!
CLOSE on co-host Alec Baldwin as he zings a one-liner about TV executives like the one he plays on "30 Rock."
THE STORY HIGHLIGHTS: Millions might miss the Oscar telecast Sunday night because WABC TV, an affiliate to Oscar network ABC, and Cablevision are haggling over subscription charges. WABC-TV wants the cable provider to pay up for rights to air ABC programming, or WABC is threatening to black out Hollywood's annual kiss-kiss.
INT. MAN CAVE -- DAY
IRATE WALLETPOP BLOGGER types furiously.
IRATE WALLETPOP BLOGGER (voiceover as words appear on computer screen)
I'm not taking sides here. I'm taking issue with the timing. If these guys want to duke it out with an arbitrator or sue the Armanis off each other, go ahead. But why hold movie fans over a barrel as cinema's biggest night -- and one of television's highest-rated -- approaches?
WABC wants a deal NOW? Can't it wait until Monday? Cablevision, with 3.1 million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, will still be here, telling its customers that it really doesn't want to pass on what would be tens of millions in additional fees to them. (Now that's acting.)
Luckily, a hero is riding to our rescue: choice. As AOL TV correspondent Gary Susman reminded me, neither WABC nor Cablevision is putting the kibosh on Oscar viewing. Viewers can try the good ol' airwaves (if they have a converter box and/or a good antenna), or satellite, or Verizon FIOS, whatever. Otherwise we'd have the surreal circumstance of Disney, ABC's parent company and a MOVIE studio, keeping audiences from the whole soiree.
This isn't the first channel/service provider tussle. Fox TV and Time-Warner Cable played chicken on New Year's Day before reaching a deal. Cablevision and Scripps had a Food Network fight this winter.
But every time it happens, the consumer gets stuck in the middle.
Let's hope for a happy ending -- the kind that not even the smartest Hollywood screenwriter could cook up: Programmers and service providers putting aside their differences to be fair to viewers.
FADE TO BLACK