Wednesday, December 31, 2008

LA may lose 20 channels tonight

I never thought this day would come. But it has. I’m siding with my cable company on a dispute with a supplier.

Time-Warner cable and Viacom are playing a game of chicken with SpongeBob SquarePants hanging in the balance.

After midnight tonight in Southern California Viacom may pull all twenty of its channels, which include MTV (Oh no! Not the HILLS!), VH-1, Comedy Central (that means Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert folks), Spike, TV Land, and BET.

Viacom is demanding more subscriber fees to offset their poor advertising revenue. 136 year old Sumner Redstone has hefty divorce lawyer fees and Depends are not getting any cheaper. Time-Warner is trying to hold the line on increasing subscribers’ fees. Especially now with this pesky Depression thing going on.

Viacom claims it’s only a twenty-five cent increase per month or $3.00 a year. But Time-Warner counters that if all the Media Giant groups do the same customers will be paying an additional $30 a year. Time-Warner also contends that Viacom provides these channels on the internet for free. So someone could hook up their PC to their TV and SpongeBob SquarePants is back. T-W doesn’t even get exclusivity.

Viacom pulled the same strong-arm tactic five years ago with satellite broadcaster EchoStar Communications.

No one wins if Viacom pulls its programs. Subscribers feel cheated. And the Viacom channels are struggling in the ratings anyway. It’s not like there aren’t other networks and shows and Netflix to fill the void. Besides, what’s the point of providing programming if you deny people from seeing it?

Hopefully this can be resolved. But if not, to paraphrase a rather famous slogan, “Keep your fucking MTV”.

19 comments:

Constance Reader said...

Is this Time Warner's new business model? They recently settled an almost identical dispute with an affiliate here in Austin. Time Warner's claim was that the affiliate wanted to charge higher fees and if they didn't get them, they'd pull their channel off of Time Warner. By any chance, is Time Warner running local radio ads, or set up a website that "tells the truth" about the dispute?

Emily Blake said...

This is the middle of the end for the current system, I think. Either TW loses those networks, which may prompt many to switch to sattelite or go all Internet based or TW raises its prices, which may prompt many to switch to sattelite or go all Internet based.

And with Netflix finally bridging that gap between computer and TV and shows like Dr. Horrible opening up web series to wide circulation - yeah, change is coming.

Viacom is in the catbird seat. TW is f*cked.

Anonymous said...

"Depends are not getting any cheaper."

Get me a defibrilator I am laughing so hard

Steve
KLA '69-70

Jer said...

Either TW loses those networks, which may prompt many to switch to sattelite or go all Internet based or TW raises its prices, which may prompt many to switch to sattelite or go all Internet based.

And in markets where TW is the cable company, the primary provider of internet service to homes is ... Time-Warner Cable.

I'm not sure how TW ends up losing out on this, actually. TW controls the pipe into so many homes that digital internet service comes across, and has been branching into offering telephone and other digital services.

And Viacom doesn't even own any sports or news networks - the two TV models that are time-dependent in nature (and even news isn't all that time-dependent any more). Comedy Central is the only thing that really ranks up there for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, but I don't see that generating the type of outrage that losing, say, ESPN might. Losing MTV might actually be considered a godsend in some households.

I think Viacom's playing with fire here and I hope that TW calls their bluff. If their business model isn't viable anymore they should find a new one. Jacking up prices to cable customers is only going to get those customers thinking about ditching their cable TV and just pay for the internet connection instead. And if TW folds for Viacom, Disney is going to be next in line demanding an increase themselves.

Mary Stella said...

Down here in the FL Keys, we deal with Comcast for our cable. They've already pissed me off so much that I switched to AT&T's satellite service and their high speed DSL. Not only do I have more channels than I'll ever watch, but I'm saving $50 a month.

wv = shemis -- a female private detective

Ray Randolph said...

I got a call from my 82-year-old mom and she's all upset at the prospect of losing one of her favorite channels - TV Land. For jerking my mom around on New Year's Eve day, both Viacom and TW can go to hell...

paul in Kirkland said...

Seems to me that this is yet another reason why the writers were 1000% right in striking over residuals derived from watching their work on the internet.

As this becomes more and more prevalent there's a very real chance that the only way people will be able to get their favorite shows is via the internet.

Even if it's a temporary thing, where a Viacom pulls their shows for a couple of weeks, it adds up.

A. Buck Short said...

Fucking MTV? Now there’s a premium channel for ya’! Although watching on the Internet might prompt a visit from that busybody Chris Hansen. But the question before the board is, if the cable’s snapped, exactly at midnight, will we still be able to see Dick Clark’s balls drop on both coasts via broadcast and the Internet? (Things you will not hear on ABC’s New Years Rockin' Eve t’night: “Don’t know how the man does it. What’s his secret? Why he still looks like only a seventy-six year-old guy with a stroke.)

Ah for the good old days in Boston, when everybody, I mean everybody, knew how to get free Warner Amex premium cable. Walk down any street, stop any kid over the age of three, and he’ll show you how to fold the aluminum foil just right and zap it into that spot on the cable box. So what if they reconfigured once a month or so, you just zap it again. Company had the entire city wired and still couldn’t figure out how they weren’t turning a profit. Personally I always felt the soft-porn stations were even kinkier scrambled anyway. Now there’s very little left to the imagination.

All of which begs the questions:
And yet, it had to be the best five years of Redstone’s life.
Mary Stella lives in the Keys – wow. Taking this writing thing a little too far?
When TW pulls the plug, will the outro be, “Viacom dios?”

Have a fine ’09 y’all.
Now where did I put that Boone’s Farm…?

Eric said...

Maybe this will bring about the era of a la carte cable subscriptions. I'm tired of thinking part of my monthly bill goes to support Fox News.

Elaine said...

I'm a DishNetwork person, and we've lost our local ABC affiliate due to rising fees (80% increase according to the Dish folk.) I wouldn't care if it wasn't for Lost starting up in a few weeks.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Might lose MTV? There is a god.

Ben said...

Good news: both sides have run out of pee; the pissing match is over.

http://blogs.kansascity.com/tvbarn/2008/12/time-warner-abo.html

bevo said...

Until T-W offer ala carte programming service, both sides can go to hell.

blogward said...

@emily blake: not so much the 'middle of the end for the current system' as the point where it begins to dawn on everybody that there's only one parachute.

WV: ovisi - what happens when you stop paying you cable subs.

BTW, happy new year everyone and especially Ken, the custodian of the sanest blog on Earth.

Paul Duca said...

I'm glad to hear that...I didn't like having to watch Viacom channels yesterday with that big black scrolling notice telling Time Warner (and Bright House) subscribers to demand they be kept--since I have Comcast.

And in case anyone hasn't realized it, Viacom has a new business model...on TV Land it's paid programming every weekday from 6 to 9 AM ET.

Simon H. said...

Thank God, I was worried Dora was going to cry some more.

My verification word is prewara: What Viacom and Time Warner were engaging in yesterday.

Paul said...

Time Warner brought this upon themselves by giving ESPN $4 per subscriber, as opposed to other networks, which get less than $1.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that if Time Warner provides cable tv, they also provide internet access. Of course, delivering tv programming over the internet is still a lot more expensive (and wasteful) than cable. You basically have a system that is designed to bring specific content to each specific user, and you're wasting it on a broadcast (every person that watches a show is downloading a unique copy of that show, as opposed to sending 1 signal that everyone recieves). The infrastructure is too small yet.

Still, eventually it'll be more than ready to replace TV, it just needs the right push.

Bob Oscar Johnson said...

That's what I wondered too, Anonymous....just how does Ken know that the price of Depends is going up? Personal experience?