Amid Cablevision Confusion, News Corp. Pulls Fox From Hulu, Then Puts It Back

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We told you this morning about the dispute between Cablevision and Fox parent company News Corp., which resulted in three million homes in the New York area losing access to the television stations Fox 5 and My9. As Saturday progressed, the battle got uglier, with News Corp. blocking Cablevision customers from watching Fox shows on both Hulu.com and Fox.com. This was Rupert Murdoch's corporate giant telling James Dolan's not-so-puny Cablevision that the two were playing hardball and without the appropriate compensation, customers get nothing. Then, all of a sudden, the News Corp. brass changed its mind, possibly fearing bad press, and decided to turn on Cablevision access to Fox shows online. What in the hell is going on?

Peter Kafka's Memo Pad blog at All Things Digital has a good rundown:

This is an important escalation from News Corp. (which owns this Web site) in its fight to extract more dollars from its cable partners.

In the past, cable subscribers who couldn't get Fox shows during fee disputes have still been able to watch some of them via Hulu. I know that News Corp. has discussed shutting off access to the site during past fee fights, but as far as I know this is the first time they've actually done it.

It's also a logical move, at least from News Corp.'s perspective.

He goes on to say that turning off online access to Fox shows would be one step to "increase the pain felt by Cablevision and its subscribers," but he doubts it would have "much real impact...in the fight." That's for sure, considering it only lasted a few hours.

But as Kafka also notes, and as we did earlier, customers are only going to be really upset if they miss their sports: tonight's NL playoff game and tomorrow's New York Giants game against the Detroit Lions. Kafka again:

Both are scheduled to air on Fox, and many of Cablevision's three million subscribers, all of whom live in the New York area, will holler loudly if they can't see them. But they wouldn't have been able to see them on Hulu or Fox.com, anyway.

Now, with Hulu and Fox.com coming back, customers are basically back at square one with no sign of a deal, but endless clips again available online. News Corp., though, showed some teeth. Updates as they come! In the meantime, enjoy Family Guy.

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