* WABC-TV says offers new deal to Cablevision
* Cablevision has 3 mln New York area customers
(Adds comments from both companies)
NEW YORK, March 7 New Yorkers were in suspense
on Sunday afternoon over whether they would get to watch the
2010 Oscars telecast as Cablevision Systems Corp CVC.N and
Walt Disney Co's (DIS.N) ABC had not yet agreed on a new
Cablevision's 3 million New York-area customers lost
broadcast signals of local station WABC-TV in the early hours
of Sunday because the cable operator and the TV network were
unable to come to terms.
Sunday afternoon, the pair still did not appear to have a
deal even though both released statements suggesting that they
were making efforts to have ABC restored to Cablevision viewers
in time for the annual Oscars award extravaganza.
The station put out a statement saying that the ball was
now in Cablevision's court because it had offered a new deal.
However, a Cablevision spokesman would not acknowledge or
confirm any new proposal. The cable operator instead said it
would accept binding arbitration with ABC in order to
immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers.
A representative for WABC did not respond to requests for a
comment on the Cablevision statement.
Cablevision said it was responding to calls from lawmakers,
including U.S. Senator John Kerry, for the companies to resort
to arbitration to resolve the dispute.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission also weighed in
on the dispute, criticizing both companies in a statement
issued Sunday. The communications regulator said it was in
contact with both companies and monitoring the situation.
"Customers should not suffer due to the inability of these
two companies to successfully negotiate a deal," the FCC's
media bureau chief William Lake said.
Cablevision had said in a statement earlier in the day
that Disney had been responsible for pulling the signal and
called for Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger to return WABC to
its customers while negotiations continued.
The cable company said Iger was "holding ABC's viewers
hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees."
For its part, WABC said in a statement Cablevision had
"betrayed its subscribers by losing ABC 7."
ABC and Cablevision have been fighting a very public battle
in the last week, accusing each other of being unreasonable in
a dispute over how much money the cable company should pay to
carry ABC's free-to-air broadcast signals.
Cablevision repeatedly claimed Disney was looking for an
extra $40 million in fees on top of the $200 million it already
Disney executives have privately disputed those numbers and
publicly said negotiations had been ongoing for two years.
This cable programming contract spat is the latest to
involve Cablevision, which also fell out with Scripps Network
Interactive SNI.N just ahead of New Year's Eve and lost
signals for the Food Network and HGTV for three weeks.
Cablevision is keen to avoid a similar loss of programming
dragging on and has hinted at involving regulators to help out
arbitrate the dispute.
Senator Kerry had earlier called for the two sides to
negotiate in good faith to reach a deal without the need to
pull the channel off air.
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew; Editing by