Fox, Cablevision and the World Series

Major League Baseball’s 2010 Fall Classic starts on Wednesday night, when the San Francisco Giants host the Texas Rangers. You can catch all of the games on Fox…unless, of course, you are a Cablevision subscriber. In that case, you’ll have to find a friend or local bar with an alternative TV package (DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, etc.)…or pick up a pair of rabbit ears.

The standoff between Cablevision and News Corp has been going for more than a week now, and it does not appear that there’s a quick end in sight. In total, Cablevision has just over 3 million subscribers throughout the NY, NJ, PA and CT areas, making them the top television service provider in that region. So it’s pretty significant when an audience of that size ends up having the World Series essentially “blacked out.” I can’t imagine any of the parties involved (Fox, Cablevision and even MLB) are particularly happy about this result.

However, how much bigger would this story be if either the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Yankees had made it to the World Series? Now instead of worrying about the casual sports fans getting tuned out, you’d be looking at a large part of the team’s home market being denied the chance to watch the games. What impact would that have had on the negotiation between News Corp and Cablevision? I asked that question on Twitter, and Michele Steele from Bloomberg Television replied back: “3 sep analysts say yanks in the WS wouldn’t have mattered; blacking out the national pastime is a big deal irrespective of teams.”

While I do agree that losing access to the World Series is quite important even with the Rangers and Giants involved, I have to believe that the negotiations would have taking a more aggressive path if the Yankees were playing. The impact on ratings and revenue that comes with a NY market team’s presence would be significant, not to mention the long-term, negative impact it would have on local sports fans, which are a very passionate, loyal audience. In fact, if the Yankees were playing and the standoff did not end, the biggest winners in this situation would probably have been DirecTV and Verizon FiOS, as it could have led to a large spike in new subscribers desperate to watch the games.

What effect do you think the lack of local market teams making the World Series had on these negotiations? What do you think would have happened if the Yankees or Phillies were still playing?