NEW YORK — After declaring Friday the deal to put Yankee games on the cabler was dead, Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision Systems and the YES Network signed a one-year contract late Monday, just in time for the Opening Night game in Toronto between the Yankees and the Blue Jays.
New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer intervened over the weekend and got both sides to agree to set aside their objections and sign off on the deal.
Agreement allows the two parties a full year to try to hammer out their differences. But Jim Dolan, prexy-CEO of Cablevision, and Leo Hindery, chairman-CEO of the YES Network, traded charges on Friday, highlighting the difficulties that kept the two from working out a deal in the last year, when the 3 million Cablevision subscribers had to do without the 120 or so exclusive Yankee games carried by YES during its first year as a cable net.
To help insure the parties end up signing a long-term deal, Spitzer got them to agree to binding arbitration if they haven’t managed to come together on a new contract a year from now.
Over the weekend, YES tried to heal the breach opened Friday, offering Cablevision a 90-day interim contract at the same per-subscriber rate of $2.12 a month being paid by all of Cablevision’s competitors in the New York area, like Time Warner Cable and Comcast. After three months, the parties would agree to binding arbitration for a long-term contract, according to the YES proposal.
That proposal got the parties talking again, and Hindery attributed the successful conclusion of the negotiation “almost entirely” to Spitzer.
The sticking point in the talks between the two sides will come down to the monthly subscriber fees paid by Cablevision to YES. Cablevision argues that all of its subscribers shouldn’t have to pay for the desires of fans of the Yankees and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, whose games also run exclusively on YES.
So, to basic-cable subscribers, Cablevision will place YES on a tier with the MSG Network and Fox Sports New York, the two Cablevision-owned regional sports nets, for $4.95 a month, or $1.95 apiece. For subscribers who buy the premium packages offered by Cablevision, YES, like MSG and Fox Sports, will come free of charge.
YES’ deal with all other cable networks in the New York area, plus DirecTV, puts YES on expanded basic, which places the net in well over 90% of subscriber households. YES regards that high clearance rate as vital, because advertisers want to get their messages out to the full subscriber base. These advertisers would lose interest if only a small percentage of subscribers were willing to pony up the extra tariff for a separate pay tier or an a la carte purchase.