Is seeing Bobby Flay the contractual right of cable subscribers?

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Is seeing Bobby Flay the contractual right of cable subscribers?

Fri Jan 22, 2010 @ 09:39AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Off_the_air_tv_color_bars_photoscul Can TV viewers do anything but complain when disputes between networks and cable providers yank popular programming off the tube?

On Tuesday, Cablevision subscriber Barry Bragger filed a class action lawsuit against his cable provider for taking HGTV and the Food Network off the dial. The lawsuit is probably rendered moot now that Cablevision and Scripps Network Interactive have reached a new carriage deal that will restore both networks to the New York tri-stage region. But since these programming fee standoffs are becoming a regular headache, Bragger's lawsuit won't be the last.

The class action claimed that Cablevision's elimination of HGTV and the Food Network from its offerings represented a material change from its contract with subscribers for cable.

We don't have Cablevision's terms of service as we're not a customer and the lawsuit doesn't provide one in the complaint, so it's hard to render a judgment about the claim. We may expect cable companies to adjust their future contracts with customers to foreclose this line of argument.

We'll also point out a thought-provoking counterintuitive article this week by The New Yorker's James Surowiecki, who argues that "bundling" of TV networks by cable providers and the inevitable disputes over carriage fees actually benefits consumers, and that legislators and regulators who wish to mandate so-called “à la carte” programming may do some harm.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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