Kerry: 'Game of chicken' between broadcasters and cable companies must end

Cablevision says it already pays $200 million a year to Disney to carry various stations including ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family. It doesn't want to pay another $40 million to carry the network's New York station.

ABC disputes the $40 million figure, but does want a cut of the money Cablevision subscribers pay for the basic cable packages. ABC threatened to pull its signals from Cablevision subscribers on Sunday--which means viewers in all five boroughs and Long Island will miss out on the Oscars.

Kerry said the fee dispute is the latest evidence that the federal rules governing signal carriage, known as retransmission consent, are outdated and in desperate need of an overhaul.

"Regardless of how this dispute turns out, it will not be the last time that we see a public fight between cable companies and broadcasters where the consumer is likely to be the loser and we need to fix the system," Kerry said.

"Disney knows that if they pull the signal, viewers will blame the cable company and switch to FIOS, RCN, DISH, or DIRECT TV after missing the Oscars.  The result of these flawed incentives is consumer uncertainty, higher prices, and broadcasters using special events as leverage in negotiations," he said.