Fox, Time Warner Cable Fox, Time Warner Cable

Fans of football and The Simpsons can breathe a little easier, for now.

News Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. agreed to extend their contract a few hours, avoiding the threatened blackout of several Fox stations and allowing fee negotiations to continue.

Time Warner made the announcement just after midnight — when the existing contract expired — and Fox executive Scott Grogin told The Associated Press at 5:30 a.m. "we are still negotiating."

News Corp., Fox's parent company, is demanding higher subscriber fees for its Fox stations from Time Warner. The company is asking for a $1 monthly fee per subscriber, which will provide subscription revenue to supplement advertising revenue from its broadcast networks.

Time Warner has agreed to negotiate a new fee, but CEO Glenn Britt has called Fox's demand excessive, noting the cable operator has reached deals for "much lower" rates with Fox affiliates. Earlier in the week, the News Corp. warned that its 14 stations could disappear from Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks' systems in New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., and other markets, causing more than 6 million customers to lose programming.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission urged the two companies to continue negotiations into the new year. The extension of the contract Friday morning suggests the channels will remain on the air while talks continue.

The two groups are making progress, but several obstacles still remain, an executive told The New York Times.

If the signal were dropped on cable, viewers could still tune into Fox for this weekend's college football bowl games and the network's other programming with an antenna, if they have a digital TV tuner of digital converter box. Cable channels such as FX, Fuel and Speed, however, would be lost.

In a separate fee dispute, Cablevision Systems Corp. said Friday it failed to reach a deal with Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. As a result, HGTV and Food Network will no longer be carried for the cable operator's 3.1 million customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.