Friday, January 01, 2010

Fox Broadcasting vs Time Warner Cable: It's All About Money (ours)

There’s a battle going on as I write this entry to this blog between Fox broadcasting and Time-Warner cable. This battle really doesn’t affect me as a DirecTV subscriber and it probably doesn’t affect many of the people who are reading this – but eventually it will – and within the next couple of years.

The battle that’s going on all boils down to money and the money that these two media giants are fighting over will eventually come from you and me – the people who rely on cable companies for our television programming. What is happening in this battle is pretty simple – Fox broadcasting wants cable operators (such as Time-Warner) to pay them for the programming they get when they broadcast a Fox broadcasting owned and operated station (which the cable company is pretty much forced into carrying on their system due to FCC must-carry rules). Here’s the big rub in the battle that’s going on -- Fox Broadcasting is asking the cable companies to pay them around a dollar per subscriber – which is more than the amount of money that cable systems have to pay each month for such cable channels as USA, TNT, TBS, Lifetime, CNN, Fox News, etc.

What’s going to happen in this little battle between these two media giants is simple – they’ll reach an agreement and Fox is going to get their financial coffers filled with a nice sum of change by the cable-satellite companies. The people who own ABC, CBS, the CW, Univision, and NBC are going to see all the money that Fox is reaping from this agreement and they’re going to go to the cable-satellite companies and ask for their piece of the pie. The cable-satellite companies will pay, but they still want to make the big bucks – so – they’ll hike up the rates that they charge us for the programming we receive – and that’s where this whole deal sucks.

Many of our favorite cable channels are owned by the big networks:

NBC owns the Weather Channel, USA Network, Bravo, MSNBC, SciFi, Oxygen

CBS owns: MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, TVLand, and BET

ABC owns: ABC Family, Disney Channel, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, ABC Soap Net and ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic

Fox owns: Fox News, Fox Business, FX, Fox Reality, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Sports Channels around the country and they have an interest in other cable channels such as The Big 10 Network and National Geographic.

ABC and NBC jointly own A&E (and if I’m not mistaken – the Biography Channel)

Looking at all of these cable channels – these four companies alone get a good hunk of money from each and every one of us each month and now they want their broadcast signals to get paid the same at their cable counterparts. Well, it’s time that we said, ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!’

It is a fact that of all of the monthly programming fees that cable and satellite companies pay – ESPN leads the pack in what they charge per subscriber. ESPN will justify their huge fees by saying that the major league sports packages that they carry cost a lot of money and somebody has to pay for it…so because ESPN is a basic cable channel (and they make sure they’re a basic cable channel) everyone who subscribes to basic cable pays for ESPN whether they watch it or not. It doesn’t sound fair to me -- but who are we – we’re just the consumer, right?

It wasn’t that long ago that a typical cable bill was somewhere around forty dollars a month and that amount included a pay cable channel such as HBO or Showtime. America’s cable-satellite companies knew that forty dollars a month was a breaking point for the customers and they did their best to stay as close to forty dollars as possible…but not anymore. I can’t tell you what the average cable rate is these days – but I know that each month I’m paying nearly seventy-three dollars – and most of the time all that I get are half-hour infomercials airing on one of the basic channels that I’m supposedly paying big bucks to be entertained by and then there are the round the clock shopping channels. It’s like the Bruce Springsteen song – “fifty-seven channels and nothing on.”

But, let me get back to this battle between Fox and Time-Warner cable and address the both of them. To Fox – if you want to get paid the same as your cable counterparts – allow the cable companies to 1) insert their own commercials in your over-the-air programming like they do on the basic cable channels that they pay for (and you own) that might prevent the cable-satellite program provider from hiking their rates , and 2) allow cable and satellite companies the right to sell your programming ala carte to their customers I can understand that everyone wants to make a buck – but why should I have to pay for something I never watch and could care less about. Hey, I don’t mind paying for your Fox broadcast signal – but why should I have to pay for Fox News when I don’t watch it? It makes sense to me, but I’m sure that Fox doesn’t see it that way.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Look for your monthly cable and/satellite bill to go up because Fox wants to charge you for NFL football, NASCAR, House and American Idol whether you watch them or not. And the bad thing is – it’s only going to get worse. Looking to be entertained? Buy a book – it’s a lot cheaper.

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