Three mil subscribers still can't see Yankee games

NEW YORK — Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision Systems won a skirmish Friday in its war against the New York Yankees’ YES Network when a federal court threw out a class-action lawsuit by five Yankee fans seeking to force Dolan to carry the channel.

Almost three months into the season, Cablevision’s 3 million subscribers still can’t see any of the 130 Yankee games exclusive to cable because the operator has not worked out a deal with YES.

Frustrated by what it regards as Dolan’s intransigence, YES filed an antitrust suit against Cablevision last month. The federal suit argues that the main reason Dolan has not agreed to take YES is that Cablevision doesn’t want competition for the two regional sports nets it owns: Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports N.Y.

In a conference call with reporters, YES attorney Alan Vickery said he was not as upset with Friday’s dismissal of the legal action as he was with the press release issued by Cablevision in reaction to the ruling.

After applauding the decision, the release went on to say that Cablevision “has offered to carry the YES Network on the same basis that it carries” MSG and Fox Sports N.Y.

But Vickery said the last offer tendered by Cablevision represents a monthly fee of 55¢ per subscriber–only about one third of what cable operators pay Dolan for each of his two sports channels.

If YES agreed to Dolan’s offer, “We’d go out of business,” Vickery said. Citing what he called most-favored-nations clauses, Vickery said YES would have to drop the $2 per month subscriber fee it’s getting from Time Warner Cable, Comcast and other cable operators in the New York area down to 55¢. Thus, Vickery said, revenues would fall so far below the operational expenses incurred by the network that it wouldn’t be able to survive.

But Cablevision’s release said that the $2 per month subscriber fee comes to $72 million a year, which Dolan would have to pass on to all of his customers, “whether they want the games or not.”

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