Media

News Corp. temporarily blocks Fox Hulu access for Cablevision subscribers

Sports fans weren’t the only casualties of News Corp. and Cablevision’s prolonged contract dispute this weekend, as Cablevision customers also briefly lost access to Hulu’s Fox content on Saturday, All Things Digital reports.

Cablevision subscribers who attempted to watch Fox video on Hulu — which is a joint venture between News Corp., NBC Universal, and Disney — on  Saturday received a notice that said the content was unavailable to them. News Corp. restored access to Hulu several hours after the block began — potentially because it realized that it was also blocking Cablevision customers who aren’t subscribed to the operator’s TV services, according to Paid Content.

At the heart of the dispute are the retransmission fees Cablevision is paying to News Corp. for its Fox channels — the cable operator is currently paying $70 million annually, but News Corp. wants that fee to be increased to $150 million. Because talks between the companies are still ongoing, Cablevision’s 3 million customers in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia lost access to their Fox cable channels on midnight Friday night. The outage was particularly brutal for baseball fans who missed out on Fox’s Giants and Phillies game on Saturday night.

While this isn’t the first time that cable subscribers lost access to content over retransmission fees — Cablevision customers also missed out on the first part of the Academy Awards this year — it is the first time that fee disputes have affected online video. In addition to losing Hulu access, Cablevision customers also lost access to video on Fox.com on Saturday.

It’s clear that News Corp. moved forward with its web video block as a way to escalate its Cablevision talks, but I would wager that given how quickly the company had to restore access, it probably won’t attempt this sort of blockage again. Not only did it affect innocent users, but it could also alert federal agencies who may take issue with such heavy-handed control of web video on net neutrality grounds.

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