Thanks in part to programming delays caused by the Winter Olympics, this year's film awards season, which kicked off over three months ago, seems to have been going on forever. But for millions of viewers, the season may finally be coming to an abrupt end -- before the Oscars air on TV.

That's because, as we reported earlier this week, Cablevision is threatening to pull the plug on ABC's flagship New York affiliate WABC-TV at midnight on Sunday morning, less than a day before the network is set to broadcast the highly anticipated 82nd Academy Awards. And should that occur, over three million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut may be unable to view the ceremony. Thanks in part to programming delays caused by the Winter Olympics, this year's film awards season, which kicked off over three months ago, seems to have been going on forever. But for millions of viewers, the season may finally be coming to an abrupt end -- before the Oscars air on TV.

That's because, as we reported earlier this week, Cablevision is threatening to pull the plug on ABC's flagship New York affiliate WABC-TV at midnight on Sunday morning, less than a day before the network is set to broadcast the highly anticipated 82nd Academy Awards. And should that occur, over three million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut may be unable to view the ceremony.

At issue is the contention by ABC parent company Disney that, as the highest rated local station in the country, WABC-TV should command a premium from Cablevision to continue carrying the signal. Their price: $40 million. For its part, Cablevision points out that WABC is already being broadcast for free over the airwaves, with much of the content additionally available online, meaning that subscribers -- who would bear the brunt of the price increase -- would be paying for what everyone else receives at no cost.

Of course, for fans of the Oscars, that central point also provides the silver lining, as viewers with digital converters will be able to simply watch the coverage the old fashioned way -- over the air. And at present that seems like it may be the best option, as neither side appears ready to compromise; both ABC and Cablevision have released competing press releases and embeddable videos lambasting the other for greed, with ABC turning up the heat even further by having their on-air personalities, including Barbara Walters and Regis Philbin, discuss the dispute on their shows this morning as part of their campaign to win over public support.

Also adding his unsolicited opinion was shock-jock Howard Stern, a Cablevision subscriber, who, according to the Hollywood Reporter, stated on his radio show that "Cablevision is a license to print money. I would rather own Cablevision than any other business on the planet. You don't have to do jack s**t. You don't have to generate any programming. All you do is own the pipe to my house and you get paid."

But while Stern seemed to take ABC's side in the matter, the L. A. Times reports that the government is apparently leaning the other way, as Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology chairman Senator John Kerry sent a letter to the FCC asking them to investigate the matter, stating regulations may not allow networks to yank their service from providers unless the cable companies are "negotiating in bad faith."

Of course, given the speed at which the wheels of government turn, it seems unlikely that any intervention would take place prior to the Oscar awards, which are scheduled to air this Sun., March 7, 8PM ET on ABC. But viewers in New York may want to pay attention to the debate anyway.

Because, after all, this may be the best drama they'll be getting for a long time to come.
CATEGORIES Movies, Oscars