HOT pulls CNN off air in sudden move

The country's largest cable provider was to continue to broadcast CNN for at least 10 more days.

CNN off the air 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
CNN off the air 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
HOT Television terminated its contract with CNN on Thursday, despite having said on Tuesday that it would continue to broadcast the international news channel at least until November 10. "The decision to end our contract with CNN comes after the network's chief executive in the Middle Eastern region, Ron Ciccone, refused to come to Israel to negotiate with us," said Yossi Lubaton, the cable provider's vice president of marketing. "We feel that they never took seriously the negotiations and did not make an offer reasonable enough to allow us to enter into serious negotiations." CNN contends, however, that over the last few months, it has made repeated contract offers to HOT, not one of which was met with a "serious" counteroffer, leading to a breakdown in negotiations between the two companies, with HOT accusing the network of "unrealistic" demands and CNN describing an initial proposal from the country's largest multi-channel provider as "insulting." HOT, under CEO David Kamenitz, has embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting campaign that seeks to lower company expenses by 30 percent to 40%. Earlier this month, HOT 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. "Late Wednesday night, HOT representatives called and essentially told us that if we didn't immediately agree to their demands in the new contract, they were going to take the channel off the air beginning Thursday afternoon," said Dov Abramowitz, legal representative and lead negotiator for CNN. "CNN is disappointed as it feels that it has a special relationship with Israel and we have something unique to offer the Israeli public." According to Abramowitz, HOT cited the impossibility of bridging the price gap as the reason for the early termination. "HOT told us that it would not be worth wasting the money to continue to broadcast the channel only for it to go off the air 10 days later," he told The Jerusalem Post. Kamenitz said that the loss of CNN, while not great for HOT, would not damage the reputation of the cable company. "CNN is an internationally recognized and well-respected channel. However, after we arrived at a dead end, we really had no choice other than to drop them today, with the termination of the contract," he said on Thursday. "Keep in mind that HOT has signed new contracts with a number of other international news channels, such as Sky, BBC and Fox, which we will continue to broadcast to our customers." HOT's chief competitor, YES Television, will continue to broadcast CNN. The Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier ruled that HOT customers could cancel their subscriptions without penalty should the company choose not to renew its contract with CNN. Last week, HOT announced that it had entered into negotiations with Al-Jazeera's English channel to serve as a replacement for CNN. It expects to conclude negotiations with the station in the near future, a HOT official said. Nathan Burstein contributed to this article.