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More than half of Israel's TV audience will lose access to CNN next month, the international news channel said Tuesday.
The announcement came as contract negotiations collapsed between the news network and Hot Television, with the 24-hour news channel saying it had yet to receive a "serious" offer from Israel's largest cable provider.
The standoff marks the second time in less than a year that Hot has threatened to drop a major English-language content provider.
The telecommunications company had previously announced that it would terminate its contract with entertainment channel BBC Prime, but renewed its deal with the network this winter following a sustained barrage of protest from subscribers.
As with the earlier controversy, the new conflict stems from an aggressive cost-cutting campaign launched by Hot CEO David Kamenitz last year, with the company seeking to lower expenses by 30 percent to 40%.
A Hot representative confirmed Tuesday the company had refused to match the terms of its previous contract with CNN, saying expectations that it do so were "unrealistic" because CNN had lost its status as the top-rated news network to Fox News. The statement was a reference to Fox's dominance in the American TV ratings, where it first surpassed CNN as the most-watched cable news network in 2002.
The apparent dig at CNN gave some insight into the tone of the negotiations between the two companies, which a CNN spokeswoman said had consisted of "a brief meeting and a few phone calls." No additional talks are scheduled at the moment, officials for both sides confirmed.
Hagit Mendes, the spokeswoman for CNN, described an initial renewal offer from HOT as "insulting," saying the company would "basically deprive half the Israeli population of one of the most important channels in the world" should it go through with threats to remove CNN.
Mendes said that just three countries in the world - Iran, North Korea and Myanmar - didn't carry CNN, and that "it wouldn't look very good" if Israel were to move closer to joining that list.
Whatever HOT decides, CNN will remain part of the programming offered by the telecom's main competitor, satellite television provider Yes. It's believed that customer threats to switch subscriptions to Yes were responsible for HOT's decision to retain BBC Prime earlier this year.
The Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting has ruled that antitrust regulations would allow HOT customers to cancel their subscriptions without penalty should the company discontinue its relationship with CNN.
A HOT representative said the company would continue to offer Fox, Sky News and the BBC, regardless of the outcome of negotiations with CNN.
Meanwhile, Yes is giving its customers three months of free access to all the TV provider's lifestyle, sports and children's channels, CEO Ron Eilon said Tuesday. The move comes as compensation to subscribers who were affected by broadcast disturbances last month that were apparently caused by radar from a UNIFIL ship operating off the Lebanon coast. All subscribers, whether affected or not, would be eligible for the benefit.
Eilon said Yes was awaiting official confirmation from the Communications Ministry that the interruptions had stopped, but said the past week has been a "quiet" one. Yes said it would provide the free channels to all 540,000 of its subscribers beginning Tuesday, which would cost the company NIS 400 per customer.
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