The Cablevision/Disney Oscar update: No deal, but plenty of illegal feeds on the web

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Well, as expected, plenty of sites are illegally streaming the Academy Awards — including this one, which is using the Star Movies feed (from the U.K., above) of the kudofest. (Will it still be there in an hour? How quick are ABC’s and the Academy’s lawyers?)

Meanwhile, for blacked-out Oscar viewers in the New York area, Cablevision and Disney/ABC were the night’s real “Inglorious Basterds.”

Even as politicians and the FCC entered the fray on Sunday night, a deal couldn’t be reached between both congloms — and as a result, WABC was still off Cablevision as the Academy Awards Red Carpet special began at 8 p.m. ET.

“It’s not what I want,” Oscars producer Bill Mechanic said curtly before the festivities began. And Disney chieftain Bob Iger didnt want to comment on WABC but when pressed, said, “The lines are still open.”

With just a few hours left until the Academy Awards were set to begin, word spread outside the Kodak Theatre that Disney and Cablevision were negotiating fast and furious to get things done before the kudocast began.

But both sides also kept up the rhetoric all afternoon, firing press releases back and forth (which frequently were repeats of earlier statements, just with ever-escalating nastiness).

Cablevision began pushing the idea of agreeing to binding arbitration between the two sides — something that was first suggested by Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s communications subcommittee.

To back their side up, the cable provider trotted out statements from several politicians, including New York Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and state Sen. Craig Johnson, as well as Congressman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).

But arbitration appeared to be a non-starter for Disney.  WABC prexy/GM Rebecca Campbell, meanwhile, said Disney had already sent Cablevision a new proposal, and was waiting for their response.

“Instead of issuing statements about arbitration, it would be more constructive for Cablevision to deal with the offer that we have on the table,” Campbell said in a statement. “It’s time for Jim Dolan and the Dolan Family Dynasty to step up, be fair, and do what’s right for their customers. The ball is in their court.”

Disney/ABC has reason not to accept a lesser deal, as the Cablevision fight will likely set a pricing precedent for later this year — when the conglom is on tap to negotiate a retransmission deal with behemoth Time Warner Cable.

On the flip side, rival conglom insiders said the face-off also comes due to the personal animosity, as cable operators feel that Disney abused them through the years by extracting major annual increases for ESPN.

In another release, WABC also cited “Cablevision’s legendary greed and disregard.”

“Now the only way for their subscribers to get ABC7 is to ditch Cablevision and switch to a provider that cares about them,” WABC’s Campbell said in a separate statement. “Cablevision customers who want ABC7 should make that switch now.”

Now that the Oscars have become a casualty of the Disney/Cablevision standoff, the dispute now enters its next phase. ABC still has some upcoming events to use as a negotiating chip — such as the return of “Dancing with the Stars” — although nothing will be as big as the Oscars.

Plus, ABC doesn’t have a major sporting event on tap to use as leverage. The Alphabet’s next major event is the “Lost” finale in May.

“Cablevision” was a top trending topic on Twitter even in cities where the standoff had little or no impact. Both Cablevision (@No_ABC_Tax) and WABC (@SaveABC7) launched feeds on the microblogging site, in which the congloms were re-tweeting messages that took their side.Both were at least in agreement on one thing: Sending out the message that Cablevision subscribers could still watch WABC via over-the-air antennas.

And although the mood online seemed slightly more anti-Cablevision than anti-Disney, both companies were receiving their licks from angry customers and viewers.

Cablevision has about 3.1 million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It serves roughly 40% of the 7.2 million households in the New York City TV market as defined by Nielsen.

Connecticut subscribers weren’t necessarily without the Oscars, however: Systems in that state also carry New Haven-based ABC affil WTNH.

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  1. This just proves a new era is coming. While CableVision and Disney fight over details, they fail to realize the audience has left the building. Unless these TV dinosaurs realize the power of the internet, they will find themselves in the same place as the newspaper industry.

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