Osc2BREAKING NEWS! 4TH UPDATE: DISNEY/ABC JUST ANNOUNCED IT’S RETURNING WABC-TV TO CABLEVISION SUBSCRIBERS. OF COURSE, IT’S ALREADY 17 MINUTES INTO THE OSCARCAST.

Here’s the statement from WABC-TV: “We’ve made significant progress, and have reached an agreement in principle that recognizes the fair value of ABC7, with deal points that we expect to finalize with Cablevision. Given this movement, we’re pleased to announce that ABC7 will return to Cablevision households while we work to complete our negotiations.”

And here’s the statement from Cablevision: “We are happy to report that WABC Channel 7 has returned to Cablevision’s 3 million New York area homes.  We are very grateful to our customers for their support and pleased to welcome ABC back.”

5:20 PM: No breakthrough as the clock ticks down. So no Oscars broadcast by Disney/ABC for Cablevision’s 3 million subscribers.

3:00 PM: I just heard from back east that there are lines of people at Radio Shacks buying old-fashioned TV antennas. Meanwhile, Cablevision announced it’s readying its 3 million subscribers for a non-Oscars night now that Disney is keeping the plug pulled on WABC-TV. The 5th largest cable provider will be offering exclusive On Demand movies at no charge, including Academy Award nominees The Hurt Locker, District 9, The Cove, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Inglourious Basterds, Julie & Julia, A Serious Man, Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Up. Also, Cablevision will have a correspondent both tweeting and liveblogging the Academy Awards. As if any of this is going to satisfy angry customers who want their Oscars!

12:20 PM: With 3 million Cablevision subscribers still unable to watch WABC-TV, and 4 1/2 hours until the Academy Awards begin broadcasting, Disney/ABC just announced it has put a “new proposal” on the bargaining table with the 5th largest cable operator. At the same time, Cablevision just said it would agree to binding arbitration with Disney/ABC in order to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers in time for the Oscars:

abc wabcMarch 7, 2010 — Statement from Rebecca Campbell, President and General Manager, WABC-TV

“We have sent Cablevision a new proposal, and are awaiting their response. If Cablevision is serious about doing right by their customers and returning ABC7 and its programming to them, then they need to act now. The ball is in their court.”

ABC7 urges Cablevision customers to call 1-877-990-ABC7 or visit www.saveABC7.com to express their concerns and for information on how to switch service providers or receive ABC7’s signal free, over-the-air.

cablevision_logoBETHPAGE, NY, March 7, 2010 – Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) today said it would agree to government calls for binding arbitration with ABC Disney in order to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers. ABC Disney pulled ABC off Cablevision last night at midnight as negotiations continued on a new agreement, removing the channel from more than 3 million New York area homes.

Earlier today, U.S. Senator John Kerry and other leading officials urged ABC Disney to restore ABC to Cablevision customers and suggested arbitration to resolve the dispute.

Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications, said:

“We remain deeply disappointed that ABC Disney has put their own financial interests above their viewers and pulled the plug on ABC. Given the extraordinary public interest in this matter, Senator Kerry and other public officials have suggested that arbitration is appropriate in this highly unusual situation. Thus, Cablevision will agree to binding arbitration and calls upon Disney CEO Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to New York area viewers, and join us in binding arbitration to resolve this matter fairly. We have communicated our position to the highest levels of the FCC and urged the agency to appropriately involve itself in this process.”

Cablevision has been able to reach agreement with every other major broadcaster in New York, and has proposed to ABC Disney terms for ABC that are as good or better than the terms in all these agreements. Over the last few days, more than 70 elected officials at the federal, state and local level called on ABC Disney to keep ABC on Cablevision while the companies worked in good faith to reach a fair agreement.

Cablevision customers interested in current information on the ABC Disney matter can visit http://www.cablevision.com/abc

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.