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Chilly cablers reach hockey accord

Two cablers' NHL fight ends in draw

Brian Roberts’ Comcast and Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision have resolved a nasty dispute over the OLN Network’s exclusive pro hockey coverage just in time for Monday night’s New York Rangers game against Montreal.

Comcast, which owns OLN, became furious with Dolan when Cablevision refused to upgrade OLN from a digital sports tier reaching about 22,000 subscribers to the more robust digital basic, which gets into the homes of 1.6 million paying customers (out of a total of 3 million).

Insisting it was justified in demanding the upgrade, Comcast reminded Dolan that, two months ago, it had coughed up an eye-popping $207.5 million in a three-year deal to secure the rights to 58 regular-season National Hockey League games plus volumes of playoff games and the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

When Dolan didn’t budge, OLN removed the hockey games from the feed it sent to Cablevision, replacing them with reruns from its library.

It was Dolan’s turn to become mad as hell and, after some hard bargaining, Cablevision agreed to remove OLN from Siberia and place it on the desirable iO digital service, where it’s available to every customer who subscribes to digital.

The parties declined to discuss dollar figures, but Kagan Research says OLN pockets a monthly fee of 12¢ per subscriber. Stuck on a tier with only 22,000 subs, OLN would get a yearly license fee from Cablevision of $31,680. Graduating to 1.6 million Cablevision homes, the license fee zooms to $2.3 million a year.

But a statement put out by Mac Budill, senior VP of programming for Cablevision, said company officials “are pleased that we were able to reach agreement with Comcast in a number of areas.”

Those areas include consideration by Comcast when negotiations come up over the renewal of Cablevision-owned networks such as AMC, WE: Women’s Entertainment, IFC, MSG and Fox Sports New York.

In a conflict that didn’t end happily, EchoStar last week responded to the pulling of NHL games by OLN for library product by dropping the entire network from the tier that reached 3.3 million customers out of a possible 11.4 million. Both sides are holding fast; no talks are scheduled.

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