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Antenna Sales Spike in New York During Oscars Retrans Fight

NEW YORK: And the Oscar goes to… indoor antennas!--for allowing some viewers to see the early minutes of Sunday night’s Academy Awards. The brief spike in antenna sales was reported by retailers when more than 3 million homes in the greater New York area--the nation’s largest TV market that includes parts of New Jersey and Connecticut--fell victim to a highly visible stand-off between Disney-owned WABC-TV and Cablevision.

ABC ultimately allowed Cablevision to carry the telecast, but not before cutting its signal for more than 20 hours before the program. WABC wanted compensation for its signal since it said Cablevision is making a profit off WABC and ABC services but doesn’t pay for the signal. The stand-off persisted beyond a one-hour “Barbara Walters Special,” which preceded the awards show, the red carpet interviews, and several minutes of the telecast itself, before Disney and the reluctant cabler reached a temporary accord.

Meanwhile, a lot of Cablevision customers spent part of last weekend day at consumer electronics stores to buy digital rabbit ears so they wouldn't miss the Oscars, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Academy Awards typically is among the highest-rated HD/SD telecasts of the year, and Sunday’s audience of more than 41 million was the highest in five years. A Radio Shack outlet on Long Island reported their phone had been ringing all day with inquiries about antennas to capture WABC’s signal. A store clerk said their antennas quickly sold out--all three units in stock. -- from John Merli’s HD Notebook