News Corp. Shuts Off Hulu Access to Cablevision Customers–And Turns It Back On [UPDATED]
UPDATE: That was fast. People familiar with the situation say that News Corp. is changing tactics and will turn on access to Fox.com and Fox programming on Hulu for Cablevision’s customers. This could take a “few hours” to roll out across the Cablevision footprint, I’m told.
One new twist in the Cablevision-News Corp. fight: News Corp. has cut off Cablevision subscribers’ access to its shows on Hulu, the video site joint venture, as well as on its own Fox.com.
Here’s a screenshot from Fortune.com columnist Seth Weintraub, taken this afternoon when he tried to watch a Fox show on the site, which is co-owned by News Corp., Disney’s ABC and GE’s NBC Universal:
News Corp.’s comment, via Fox Networks PR guy Scott Grogin: “Fox.com and Fox content on hulu is unavailable to Cablevision subscribers.”
And here’s Hulu PR rep Elisa Schreiber:
Unfortunately, we were put in a position of needing to block Fox content on Hulu in order to remain neutral during contract negotiations between Fox and Cablevision. This only includes Fox content. All other Hulu content is accessible to Cablevision internet subscribers. We regret the impact on Cablevision customers and look forward to returning Fox content to those users as soon as possible.
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 were still 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.
If it’s trying to increase the pain felt by Cablevision and its subscribers, it may as well use every tool it has. And in the past, the Web has been used against programmers like Fox in these fights: Last year, when Time Warner Cable was fighting with News Corp., it prepared a video showing customers how to find their favorite shows on sites like Hulu.
But while the move is certain to rile up the digerati (astonished industry executive to me, over the phone, just now: “That is crazy!) I’m not sure how much real impact it will have in the fight.
News Corp.’s most valuable weapon is access to the Phillies-Giants playoff game tonight, and the New York Giants-Detroit Lions game tomorrow.
Both are scheduled to air on Fox, and many of Cablevision’s three million subscribers who live in the New York area will holler loudly if they can’t see them. But they wouldn’t be able to see them on Hulu or Fox.com, anyway.
Instead, those sites are used to show reruns of Fox broadcast shows. That means Cablevision subs can’t see Sunday night’s episode of “The Simpsons” on Monday, but that’s not the same kind of impact.