Execs support Cablevision

Event marks first time cable toppers openly back Dolan

NEW ORLEANS — As the National Cable Show closed up shop, top execs made it a point Wednesday to defend Cablevision, saying it was doing the right thing in refusing to be coerced into carrying the New York Yankees’ YES Network.

AT&T Broadband chair Bill Schleyer and Cox Communications prexy Jim Robbins said they stand squarely behind Cablevision’s Chuck Dolan, and that YES topper Leo Hindery isn’t playing fair. Comments came during the final session of the annual confab, and marked the first time that cable toppers have openly thrown their support to Dolan.

“I hope Cablevision wins, because then the consumer wins,” Robbins said during the roundtable, which focused on the financial state of the biz.

YES brought the suit late last month after Cablevision refused to offer the sports net as a basic service at a monthly subscription fee of $2 per subscriber — a price tag that makes the Yankees channel one of the most expensive nets in the region.

Cablevision, which has about 3 million customers in the New York City area, offered YES 50 cents per subscriber.

The lawsuit brought by YES alleges that Cablevision, a majority owner in two other sports networks in the same area, doesn’t want a competitor like YES cutting into the ratings and revenues of Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports New York.

Feud between YES and Cablevision was the subject of conversation throughout the four-day show. On Monday, incoming AOL Time Warner topper Richard Parsons said his company chose to sign a deal with YES based on what “our customers wanted and needed.” Comcast and DirecTV also have signed carriage pacts with YES.

The National Show, held in New Orleans this year, was markedly smaller than previous years. According to preliminary tallies, registration topped out at 17,000, compared with 24,000 last year.

The number of booths on the show floor was dramatically pared down. Host of the confab, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., had offered exhibitors the option of renting out a less expensive executive suite.

“I thought it was successful. It brought people to the show who wouldn’t have come otherwise,” Insight Communications prexy Michael Willner, who was re-elected Wednesday to continue on as NCTA’s chair.