Deal averts station blackout; Kerry pushes retrans revamp

Fox has come to terms with satcaster Dish Network on a mammoth carriage deal covering FX, National Geographic Channel, 19 regional sports networks and retransmission consent for Fox’s 27 broadcast TV stations.

The deal averts the prospect of Fox facing another station blackout as of today, when its previous retrans pact with Dish was set to expire. FX and the regional sports cablers went dark on Dish as of Oct. 1 when the sides could not agree on a renewal. Fox’s O&O stations are distribbed to about 4 million of the 14.3 million subscribers Dish has across the country.

On Saturday, Fox resolved its retrans standoff with cable giant Cablevision that had kept its Gotham and Philadelphia stations dark for 3 million New York, New Jersey and Connecticut-area subscribers since Oct. 16.

Mike Hopkins, prexy of affiliate sales and marketing, noted that Fox and Dish execs “worked tirelessly to help us reach a successful conclusion” during the lengthy talks.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was quick to chime in on the Fox-Dish pact. “I am pleased that Fox and Dish have kept in mind their responsibility to protect consumers from blackouts when they negotiate carriage terms,” Genachowski said.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) continues to press his case legislative overhaul of the retransmission consent law that governs dealmaking between broadcast TV station owners and subscription TV providers. Kerry on Friday released a letter that he received from Genachowski noting his concern about viewers suffering through station blackouts as a result of retrans squabbles.

Genachowski made it plain in the letter that the FCC at present does not have the authority to intervene in a standoff such as the Cablevision-Fox fight. He indicated that he would support Kerry’s call for changing the retrans law to mandate mediation or binding arbitration during fee disputes in order to keep stations from going dark for consumers.

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