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Cablevision, YES reach last-minute deal

Posted: Monday March 31, 2003 9:36 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cablevision and the YES Network struck a deal Monday to bring New York Yankees games to the cable system's 3 million subscribers -- just in time for the Yankees to open their season in Toronto.

For Cablevision customers, the deal averted the prospect of a second consecutive season without the vast majority of Yankee games.

"The deal is good for each of the businesses involved, good for consumers and good for Yankees fans, who will again be able to watch their team on television," said state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who monitored the negotiations.

When YES went on the air last year, it insisted on being offered as a basic cable channel, and 35 regional cable companies serving 5 million customers agreed to the request. Cablevision wanted customers to pay extra for the service.

The two sides struck a temporary deal March 12, agreeing to keep negotiating and allowing Cablevision subscribers to pay $1.95 per month for YES in the meantime.

But the bitter dispute flared again Friday when the two sides walked away from the temporary agreement, saying it was doubtful a deal could be done by Opening Day.

Spitzer brought the two sides back together over the weekend, and a deal was reached at 6:39 p.m. Monday. The YES signal was on Cablevision less than 10 minutes later. Gametime was 7:05.

If the deal had taken much longer to complete, Yankees starter Roger Clemens "was supposed to just keep throwing warm-up pitches," YES Chairman Leo Hindery said.

In the third inning, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter -- the team's leader and one of the premier players featured on the YES Network -- dislocated his left shoulder in a collision at third base with Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby.

Under the one-year deal, Cablevision will add the YES Network to premium packages for no additional fee. The companies will go to binding arbitration if they have no permanent deal by April 1, 2004.

"This document is a document that will survive," Cablevision President and CEO James Dolan said in a statement. "There are no clauses at the end. The games are on now, and they're going to stay on."

YES is controlled by YankeeNets, the sports media company that owns the Yankees, the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils. The network has exclusive rights to most Yankee games.

Last season's dispute cost the YES Network more than $60 million in subscriber fees and tens of millions more in advertising. Cablevision lost 39,400 subscribers last year.

Cablevision owns Madison Square Garden, the MSG Network and the New York Knicks and Rangers. The Yankees appeared on MSG for 13 seasons before 2002.


 
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