Fox and Cablevision Won’t Let Me Watch the World Series

Since October 16, every time I turn on my TV I see this:

I’ve recently wised up and changed the channel to which my cable box defaults, but that message still plays all day, on both Fox 5 and a dedicated alert channel. I was not able to watch one minute of the NLCS on my TV, and it it’s a certainty that when the World Series commences tomorrow night that I will have to find an alternative way to watch it. You might understand my rage over this issue.

The point of conflict, predictably, is money. Fox wants a raise. Cablevision isn’t willing to pay the amount Fox has demanded. The two sides were not able to agree on a rate by the October 16 deadline, and so Fox pulled its programming from Cablevision. This hit first on Saturday night, when the Giants played the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS, and then hit again on Sunday when the New York Football Giants played the Detroit Lions. Giants fans have something of a reprieve, as they played on ESPN this week and have a bye next week. But baseball fans still must seek an alternative for the World Series.

Calling Cablevision about the matter is pointless. From their phone menu I selected the option regarding Fox programming, but it was just another propaganda-filled recording. During the message they note that should Cablevision acquiesce to Fox’s demands, our cable bills will go up. But when I finally got through to a customer service representative, I was informed that Cablevision was not issuing refunds for Fox service. So we’re either paying more for the same service, or we’re paying for a service we’re not receiving. Yet that that is not my biggest complaint about this spat.

That I have to go Radio Shack and buy a digital TV antenna is absurd. I cut Cablevision a check every month for my cable service. In exchange, they deliver me the appropriate channel package. Fox is included in that package. Now I have to cut the same check as every month, only for a lower level of service. Not only that, but I have to spend between $25 and $50 on a digital TV antenna, so that I can actually watch the World Series this year. The worst part is that watching the World Series this year is not optional.

If you haven’t yet noticed, we’re supplying WPA-based recaps for ESPN this postseason. If you click through the dates here you can see the FanGraphs content from the LDS and LCS. We’re set to do it again in the World Series. How can I recap a game I haven’t watched? This requires me to either 1) go to a bar, or 2) buy an antenna. Since recaps and bars don’t go well together, and since my wallet appreciates me not going to a bar every game of the World Series, the antenna is the only practical option if I want to do my job. Cablevision and Fox, in other words, are preventing me from pursuing my livelihood.

(It’s not all work related, of course. Even if I didn’t work for FanGraphs I’d want to watch the World Series, because it’s the goddamn championship of the sport with which I’m unhealthily obsessed.)

This isn’t the first time Cablevision has sparred with a content provider. Earlier this year ABC pulled its programming over the same money issue. That cut into the Oscar’s broadcast, and service was restored about 20 minutes into the program. We aren’t that lucky with Fox. We’re currently in Day 11 of the blackout, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Cablevision has agreed to binding arbitration, which would settle the matter immediately. Fox hasn’t, because that would be to concede the negotiations. They’re not going to get anything near what they’re seeking in arbitration.

Both parties are to blame in this. Fox’s parent company, News Corp., wants to change the way it is compensated for its programming. Cablevision wants to keep the status quo. Caught in the middle of their spat are millions of consumers in the New York Metro area. I do not think Cablevision customers should stand for this. We pay them to deliver content, and they are not holding up their end of the deal. They put the blame on Fox, but that’s just propaganda. Similarly, Fox’s effort, Keep Fox On, tells only one side of the story and distorts the other. All consumers need to know is that both sides are failing them.

Tonight I will go and purchase a digital TV antenna so that I can watch the World Series. But once I do, that’s the end of Cablevision in my mind. I will not be held hostage by two companies that clearly do not care about me. There’s nothing I can do about Fox, since they’re a network channel. But I can let Cablevision know that I won’t stand for their actions. I urge my fellow baseball fans to do the same. We need not continue paying for service we’re not getting, and then pay for an additional device, along with our full cable bills.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


72 Responses to “Fox and Cablevision Won’t Let Me Watch the World Series”

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  1. plen says:

    LEGALLY, This requires me to either…

    FTFY

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  2. Hunter says:

    I personally tend to blame Fox a little more since Cablevision offered to submit to binding arbitration and Fox refused. From what I’ve read, Fox is demanding a raise that will work out to about double what was previously paid–quite a hike.

    That’s not letting Cablevision off the hook, of course. They should be giving you a discount for not offering all the content that you expect.

    That being said, have you called Cablevision and asked for a reduced rate, and/or told them you’re looking into cancelling and getting DirectTV or whatever? Usually that tactic works for me. They’re not going to OFFER the discount, but if you ask, and you have a legitimate argument, they’ll often give it to you.

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    • Hunter says:

      I’m sorry you did touch on that in your paragraph. Reply fail.

      However, I would still be suprised if you told them (politely) that you would either like a refund or you were cancelling your service to get Direct TV.

      Had a somewhat similar thing happen to our local cable service. I listened to the customer service rep, told her I understood her position, and in light of that, wished to cancel my cable service.

      Presto! I got a discount. (This might not work if you don’t actually intend to follow through–I did, as I was at the point I didn’t really care.)

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    • Neil says:

      Hunter wrote: “I personally tend to blame Fox a little more since Cablevision offered to submit to binding arbitration and Fox refused.”

      Yeah, but the principles of binding arbitration are the same for them as they are in baseball – the arbitrator looks at precedent, and the more relevant precedent is whatever deal the other networks reached with Cablevision. In this case, Fox is looking to *set* precedent, not fall in line with it. If Fox thinks that the others accepted too little, then they have no reason to enter into a process that they know Cablevision will win.

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  3. Ryan says:

    Be like everyone else and steal it from somewhere else.

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  4. jon says:

    buy a ten dollar set of rabbit ears. works great. if it weren’t for all the sports that migrated to ESPN, TBS, TNT – you could drop Cablevision completely.

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  5. Mike D says:

    Imagine the uproar if the Yankees made the Series

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    • chuckb says:

      That’s probably what one side or the other was counting on and now that side has lost leverage in the matter.

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      • Ed says:

        The Yankees and Phillies both in the playoffs is the reason Fox pulled this. Both the NYC and Philly areas are affected here, and they were betting on Cablevision caving in to get the World Series. Now that it’s Texas / San Fran, Fox has lost a ton of leverage.

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  6. Hunter says:

    Additionally, if you have a newer TV, I’m suprised you even need to go out and buy anything. I have a newish (approx. 3 years old) TV and it come with the tuner or antenna or what have you already included. I can switch from cable to air, and the air channels come in just fine.

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  7. isavage30 says:

    You can make a digital TV antenna basically for free using coat hangers … you might have to spend a couple bucks on a UHF/VHF transformer

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  8. scottdsimon says:

    I dropped my Cablevision subscription back in July. Switching over to over-the-air HDTV, combined with the MLB.tv package and ESPN3.com, provided me with much of the programming I wanted to watch. I did this because Cablevision refused to negotiate the price of their “Triple Play.”

    Cablevision’s price had been $100 for three services: HDTV, Internet, and Phone. After my “promotional period” ran out, they jacked up the rate to $140. When I threatened to cancel my service, they said, “Go ahead,” knowing that they were the monopoly cable provider in my neck of the NY woods. So I quit.

    Fast-forward to September. Verizon FIOS finally becomes available in my area. Verizon offers me:

    – internet with a free wireless router;
    – 537 channels of cable, including 70 HD channels like MLB network, syfy, NFL network, etc.;
    – two cable boxes; and
    – a multiroom DVR that lets you record shows and watch them on either of the two boxes, in HD.

    The cost for all this? For the first 3 months it will be 65.98. For the second 3 months it will be 85.98. And for months 7-24 it will be 95.98. In the end, averaging the cost of service over 24 months (and accounting for $50 in free pizza I got from the FIOS sales rep), I’m getting HDTV and two DVRs for $60 less than what Cablevision wanted to charge me.

    The moral of the story? If you can possibly switch away from the monopoly cable provider in your area, do so immediately. Competition is good for consumers. Don’t be swayed by Cablevision’s advertising portraying FOX as the bad guy here.

    p.s. A week after I switched to Verizon, I got a letter from Cablevision offering me the the Triple Play for $100 as a “returning customer.” I promptly threw their mail in the garbage, where it belongs.

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  9. John says:

    Charter and Belo (CBS) had a spat like this over carrying the HD version of their channel. I’m going to have to side mostly with the cable companies on this one. Fox is already beaming their channel right to your house for free OTA – why should the cable company have to pay so much to carry it? Fox should want as many viewers as possible.

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  10. Gio says:

    “Now I have to cut the same check as every month, only for a lower level of service.”

    With annual rate hikes you are constantly having to pay more for the same level of service.

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  11. Erik says:

    “Not only that, but I have to spend between $25 and $50 on a digital TV antenna…”

    FWIW, a DTV antenna is no different from an analog TV antenna. You just need a UHF antenna (Fox’s digital station in NYC broadcasts at the equivalent of the old uhf ch44). Radioshack has ones as cheap as $5-$12. Or you can scurry around in your attic for the one you put there when you switched to cable 25 years ago.

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  12. Fortunatus says:

    Go to http://www.atdhe.net.

    It’s not great quality. It’s a somewhat-delayed stream of live games, uploaded to the internet. But you know what? It’s passable, and it gets the job done. It’s how I watch the Jet games at college when they’re outside of regional coverage.

    The quality isn’t awful, by the way… Think YouTube of three years ago. You can tell what’s going on, for sure.

    It’s a temporary fix that beats switching your cable provider.

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    • Nick says:

      Used this site to catch the first Giants/Phils game.

      The feed came from ESPN America, and during the commercial breaks they played nothing but Baseball history vignettes, player highlight shorts (from all sports), and old Sportscenter ads. Greatest 3 hours of TV I’ve ever watched.

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    • Nostradamus says:

      I believe ilemi.com will also work, same type of website that streams a number of sporting events.

      Rangers in 6.

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    • Josh Wexler says:

      Or myp2p.eu. You’re an idiot for paying these people who rape you over and over again. Welcome to the 90’s, bro.

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    • Max says:

      I echo your praises for atdhe.net, which I use frequently.

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  13. Kevin says:

    A short, relevant article on carriers vs. content providers here:
    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2010/01/25/100125ta_talk_surowiecki

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  14. mettle says:

    Cablevision will cease to exist pretty soon anyway. It’s too easy to get basic channels over the airwaves, TV shows you want on Hulu or iTunes and the sports you want with MLB.tv or something similar.

    Too bad Fox can’t cease to exist soon, too.

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    • Jonathan says:

      The biggest problem is local blackouts. If I could circumvent blackouts and just get MLB.tv for local games, I’d have ditched the cable TV ages ago.

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  15. whydidnt says:

    Rather than being ticked at Cablevision, you should thank them for standing up to rising costs. If every provider just caves to Fox’s ridiculous demands for what they are already delivering for free, prices just go up. Why should Fox get anything when they are already beaming this for free over the public air waves?

    And no, I’m not a Cablevision employee, just a concerned consumer that has been watching our cable/satellite costs rise tremendously over the last few years as network providers continue to demand more and more in fees from the cable cos. All the while continuing to fill our programs with ads that are supposed to support their operations. The problem is that each time they raise their fees, the cable/satellite operator turns around and raises theres by just a little more.

    Your anger is mis-directed. It’s not Cablevision that wants to change the status quo, but Fox.

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    • RKO36 says:

      Yeah, but Cablevision should be offering some type of refund. Cablevision is not holding up their end of the deal by not offering a service consumers are paying for.

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      • Ed says:

        In the past, Cablevision has offered refunds after the issue was resolved. It’s a lot easier on the billing to handle it that way.

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  16. Omar Little says:

    As someone said before, you can get crystal clear HD (better quality than cable) with just some clothes hangers, a piece of wood and a transformer. Cost under $5. Ditch the cable.
    As long as you don’t live way out in the sticks where you can’t get any reception.

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  17. Caleb says:

    You live in New York? Don’t believe the hype – you don’t need a special “digital” antenna. Any pair of bunny ears will do. ~$10 for crystal clear HD Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and some other random things. I live in Brooklyn, buried in an apartment building, and I still get Fox HD on a regular bunny ear antenna hooked up to a one year old HDTV.

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    • Locke says:

      good quality?

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      • Caleb says:

        Absolutely. With the caveat that I occasionally have to move the antenna around between Fox and NBC, because the ideal location is different for each. Otherwise, it looks better than my friend’s TW cable. That, and I have a pair of ridiculous looking bunny ears sitting behind my HDTV.

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      • Caleb says:

        Additional caveat: Brooklyn is huge, and I have no idea where the signal is being broadcast from. I live pretty close to Manhattan, which may help things.

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      • dp03 says:

        I live about 32 air miles away from NYC in New Jersey and I receive Fox 5 fine with rabbit ears. Better quality then Cablevision, because Cablevision would compress the feed.

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      • Jonathan says:

        One thing to note about digital:

        Unlike analog, there’s generally no real variable in quality. If you can get it to come in at all, it’s going to come in in full HD quality, unlike analog where it might come in all fuzzy and snowy.

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  18. Option C says:

    yarr avast the only option left is to man the high seas and let your pirate flag unfurl!

    [cough]adthe.net[/cough]

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  19. Gabriel says:

    I’d add MLB to the folks to blame. In any case, all 3 (MLB, Fox, and Cablevision) are all simply interested in how much money they can make, not in the best interests of the viewer or the game.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t get cable and could only watch the NLCS, putting me in the exact opposite position of yours. As an A’s fan, I couldn’t watch a single A’s game all year (on TV)!

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  20. Matt Defalco says:

    You could always buy postseason.tv for 9.99.

    That works too.

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  21. Roger A says:

    Where aren’t the supposed anti-trust laws imposed here?

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  22. StLHugo says:

    Dish Network is having the same dispute with Fox and so far it is only affecting Fox Sports, FX and National Geographic but I have heard rumors of it spreading to Fox as well. As “compensation” they gave us all the other regional channels that are normally in their sports package and some random HD channels but for the most part it is nothing I care about.

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  23. philkid3 says:

    Honest question, and I haven’t read the comments yet: if this goes on, why is anyone a Cablevision customer?

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    • Ed says:

      1) Cablevision is fighting against significant rate hikes here. Cable companies don’t normally pay to retransmit the broadcast channels. Fox is trying to get about $3/month per customer for the rights to transmit two broadcast channels. If Fox wins this, it’ll set a precedent. All other broadcast channels will demand the same treatment, and switching providers won’t help. It’s going to be really bad for everyone if Fox wins this.

      2) Cablevision has great internet service.

      3) Cablevision almost always gets a serviceman to your house the next day if there’s a problem

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  24. My echo and bunnymen says:

    You know, fangraphs stays ahead of the game statistically, you would think that the writers would stay ahead with their live statistically too. In other words, they would know paying for cable is one of the worst decisions you can make financially. Most (if not all) of your shows can be watched online, streamed with fewer commercials. So you’re paying to watch shows at their times? How can you possibly justify paying for cable? Buying an antenna is smart because you have a one time fee for about the same cost of one month’s service of cable. Even if you only watch on saturdays and sundays you won’t be paying monthly (other than the electricity used).

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      P.S. The warning for the switch to digital was broadcast for well over a year, the only one to blame for not being prepared is yourself. They WERE giving away boxes for free when the switch occured.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Not everyone can get baseball that way. As a fan of the Red Sox, I’ve only got NESN for games and NESN does not broadcast OTA last I checked. Additionally, I’m shafted by local blackout restrictions if I wanted to switch to MLB.tv. It’s a sad state of affairs.

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  25. Bryz says:

    The video at the beginning of this post is quite lulzy. It’s like watching a 3 minute political attack ad.

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  26. ThundaPC says:

    TV disputes are annoying and becoming increasingly more common place, unfortunately.

    Even worse, all complaining to the companies in question does is result in both of them pointing fingers at each other. It seemed like at one point in the past the companies could hammer out a new contract before their old one expired so that there would be no programming interruption. These days, if a potential cutoff is looming, it’s almost guaranteed to happen.

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  27. J Bravo says:

    I want to know why Bud Selig hasn’t been involved in this. I searched a few days ago, and I can’t find one press release or statement from the commissioner on this. I remember when FOX did this somewhere right before the BCS bowls, and senators (yeah, of the United States) got involved.

    It’s Selig’s job to do what’s good for the game, and it’s appalling that MLB seems to have absolutely no leverage over FOX here. Come on, mediate some kind of delay. It’s Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum!

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  28. rick p says:

    “Dish Network is having the same dispute with Fox and so far it is only affecting Fox Sports, FX and National Geographic but I have heard rumors of it spreading to Fox as well.”

    MLB-TV is also not available on Dish

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  29. d240z71 says:

    I can never feel sorry or sympathy for anyone that pays for TV and then bitches about not having money. I mean really, think about it.

    You pay for TV! haha!

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  30. Matt Mitchell says:

    There’s been speculation that Cablevision is waiting to see what happens in the Dish Network-Fox dispute (I may have read this on Biz of Baseball, but don’t quote me on that). That’s been at an impasse for almost a month now, but it has only affected those cable networks. There has been the threat to pull the local FOX affiliates on November 1, and one would think that negotiations would be going on. Of course, there’s a different dynamic because of DirecTV. Part of me thinks Dish might have a legitimate case for anti-trust violations by Fox because of that dynamic, but I’m not a lawyer.

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  31. WY says:

    “How can I recap a game I haven’t watched?”

    Ask Dave Cameron! (Sorry, that was too easy.)

    I can imagine it being very frustrating. At least you can write off the antenna as a business expense. That obviously doesn’t excuse Cablevision and Fox, though.

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  32. Visnovsky says:

    As always with issues like this, I am 100% for the waterboarding of executives on both sides of this issue.

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  33. John Q says:

    Here’s a couple of options:

    If you have a digital t.v. you can watch over the air broadcasts with a standard t.v. antenna. This all depends how far you are from NYC. and where you live. You probably will need an amplified vhf/uhf antenna that run for about $30 dollars.

    If you have an analog t.v. you will need a digital converter box that cost about $30-50 dollars and an amplified vhf/uhf antenna for about $30 dollars.

    You can pay $9.99 and watch it live at mlb.com on your computer.

    You can watch it on delay for free on fox.com on your computer.

    You can watch it on delay on cablevision, usually the next day on the mlb channel.

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  34. Wondering says:

    I could be wrong, but couldn’t you write this off as a business expense and just save the money in taxes?

    It is, after all, a business expense, right? You need to watch the World Series to properly do your job as a writer for FanGraphs.

    It wouldn’t solve the underlying problem, of course, but it’d make the antenna essentially free.

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    • Rich says:

      Being able to write something off doesn’t mean its free. It just means that you don’t have to pay income tax on the money spent off of it.

      That means a $30 antenna costs $30, instead of the $50 worth of labor it costs to take home $30.

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  35. John Q says:

    You could also listen to the game on the radio.

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  36. pft says:

    Monopoly capitalism at work.

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  37. Aussiedodger says:

    “”I cut Cablevision a check every month for my cable service. In exchange, they deliver me the appropriate channel package. Fox is included in that package. Now I have to cut the same check as every month, only for a lower level of service. “”

    You pay by cheque?
    How do you have internet in the 1970s?

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    • Alireza says:

      1) Checks are still used in the US for a fair number of things, especially rent payments.

      2) “Cut a check” is an expression, though you probably knew that.

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  38. marshen says:

    Dish Network is having a similar dispute with FOX that took away FSN and FSNwest that provided local ports programming in the Los Angeles area and everywhere else Dish operates. I missed out on the last three regular games of the Angels baseball season. This began October 1, and nothing has happened to resolve the dispute. I have kept up with this story from various news sources and find they are not even talking.

    The only thing I have found out is all the other FOX stations will be pulled November 1, potentially blacking out the final games of the World Series. I could switch providers but it seems a pattern is developing with FOX that once their contract runs out with any cable provider, this increase in fee demands ensues, leading to programming being pulled. If you change cable or satellite companies today because of the dispute there is no guarantee your new company is going to be exempt from this situation down the road in the near future. I am sure this will probably be resolved by start of the baseball season next year but if not I will be forced to make the switch anyway.

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  39. Drew says:

    To those suggesting watching the game online through postseason.tv – this is not an option by itself. You get raw camera feeds, not the broadcast feeds. This means you don’t have someone switching cameras for you to follow the action, and theer are no replays, zooms, etc. It is a piss poor way to watch a game, but could possibly be decent in addition to a radio broadcast.

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  40. Train says:

    I understand your frustration, but I think your blame is a little off base. You signed up for Cablevision wihtout any guarantee that the line-up today would be the line-up tomorrow. If they failed to agree on a contract with HGTV you probably wouldn’t hae even noticed it disappear from your options. It’s a business and they can’t just suck up and fee hike just to placate their customers’ assumptions about what they should offer. Also, you have a choice, you don’t have to pay for less service, just terminate your subscription. It’s a service business not a utility. And if you have to blame anybody, Fox deserves more of your ire. You think they didn’t realize the timing of their fee increase? In fact, I have to give kudos to cablevision for standing up to the nasty Austrailian and his dirty ways of doing business. In the meantime, check out MLB’s companion coverage, it’s not bad, or go watch the game at a bar, you might have a good time.

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