Today’s cuppa: Irish breakfast tea

24_sc-711_046.jpgNews Corp., which owns Fox Broadcasting Company and several Fox cable channels, and Time Warner Cable are in a financial stand-off that could come to a head just as the ball drops tonight in Times Square.

Although many fervently hope, and some even expect, that all this will be resolved at the last minute, it’s very possible that Time Warner Cable customers will lose at least some Fox channels as of 12:01 a.m. tonight.

As detailed here and here and here, the corporations are involved in a price dispute, with News Corp. demanding an increase in the fee TWC pays for retransmitting Fox Broadcasting Company affiliates and some of its cable networks, including FX, Fox Reality and selected Fox Sports channels. So far, TWC has refused, using ads to enlist viewers in its “Roll Over or Get Tough” campaign.

Click here for a brand-new explanation of what’s going on. As outlined here, the situation is particularly dire in Florida, where football fans may not be able to see the Sugar Bowl on Friday and the final game of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Click here for CNBC’s video report.

This is probably only one of many fights we’re likely to see in upcoming years as the seismic shifts in the media landscape finally hit the relationship between broadcast networks and cable systems. According to a story in the New York Times, Fox has an ally in Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.

But, consumers have options. Of course, you can switch your provider from Time Warner Cable to one of the satellite services or to something like Verizon FIOS (and no doubt they’d be thrilled to accommodate you, but expect a rush if the blackout occurs).

Not everyone will lose everything, depending on where you live. If you’re in one of the major markets where News Corp. owns and operates the local Fox affiliate (like Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, etc.), your local station could disappear. But, you could buy an antenna. That won’t help with the cable networks, but it will get you “American Idol,” “24” and other broadcast shows.

If you have a standard-definition TV, you’re going to need to add in a set-top box to pick up the new digital signals. But if you have an HDTV with a tuner inside, head to your local electronics store for a rooftop or indoor antenna. If you have good reception in your area, you’ll be able to see Fox shows in crisp HD.

And, of course, Fox shows will still be available online, including at Hulu.com, but you may have to wait a day.

This dispute may be solved sometime today, but even if it is, it’s probably an issue that’s going to crop up again as other contracts come to a close. Might be a good idea to keep those options in your back pocket just in case.

UPDATE: Here’s a view from Fox News (which is not at stake in this, but obviously has a keen interest) of the dispute as the hour approaches.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: The FCC weighs in.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE OF THE UPDATE: It’s now New Year’s day in sunny Los Angeles, and in the absence of fresh reports after the wee hours of this morning — which said the warring parties had agreed to an extension of talks for a short time — KTTV, Channel 11, the Fox affiliate in Los Angeles, still remains alive and well on my Time Warner Cable system. So there ya go.