Monday, December 28, 2009

Roll Over or Get Tough? Time Warner, and Viewers, Should Get Tough

Full page ads from Time Warner appeared in local papers today and asked readers if Time Warner should roll over in the fight with Fox as Fox wants to increase rates for their channels carried on Time Warner cable. If Fox doesn't get the money they want, Fox says that on January 1 they will pull the plug on Fox channels carried by Time Warner. Some markets are more affected than others, likely those who have Fox owned local stations. Those not in those markets only run the risk of losing minor Fox cable channels. For example, the Cleveland Ohio market only stands to lose the following channels: Fuel, Fox Reality Channel, Speed Channel, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports World Espanol, and FX. I don’t watch those channels anyway, and see this as a low risk to lose. Clearly I would rather that Time Warner get tough and not pay the extra money, since I know that if Time Warner has to pay more, I would have to pay more. Why should I pay more for channels that I don’t care about?

I went to Time Warner’s “Roll Over Or Get Tough” website and checked how this would affect a New York City Time Warner customer. I saw this listing of channels: WNYW, WWOR, Fuel, Fox Reality Channel, Speed Channel, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports World Espanol, and FX. I would imagine that the first two channels on the list are the local Fox owned stations which likely carry more of the Fox network programming, something that viewers may miss and would want to pay for. Fine. How about if each market can decide what they want to do? If New Yorkers want to pay a premium for local channels, fine. But I don’t want to have my rates raised because some other city wants to keep their local channels via cable, channels that can likely be obtained by using a simple antenna or an antenna and a digital converter box.

This brings me to my ideal way of paying for television – let me pick and chose which channels I want and I will pay for those channels. When I think of all the TV channels I have available to me right now, I watch maybe less that 30-40 of them regularly. At least 6 of them are local HD channels that I can get over the airwaves without needing cable. Viewers need to get tough with cable companies and the big networks and fight for a change that allows viewers to drop the channels they don’t want and not have to pay for them. Sure, this could hurt those networks who tailor their content to a certain niche. But that’s the way it goes. If networks like Fox want to nickel and dime – or in this case maybe “dollar” - me, then I should have the ability to tell them to stick it. And if the cable or satellite operators will lose revenue because they can’t make up the cost of carrying channels that most people don’t watch, that’s too bad. Maybe it would force them into revising their pricing structure so that viewers who demand niche channels pay more for them to cover the cost of carrying them.

Regardless, I think that people have just about had enough of the rising cost of television, and I sense that Fox trying to demand more is only going to hurt them later on down the road. People are getting tired of paying ever increasing prices for content that is sub par or that they don’t watch. If Time Warner caves in, it will only be a matter of time before other networks try the same thing as Fox is attempting. Comcast, after buying NBC Universal, may have a lot more control over what they decide to charge their own viewers, and maybe even more so to NBCU viewers not on Comcast (such as Time Warner). I certainly hope in this current case of chicken with Fox that Warner doesn’t swerve off its course.

All Original Text Content © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, The Frequent Critic, here.


Rosemary said...

I feel a little differently. Last year this time, Time Warner and Viacom were in the exact same fight, and I had just started watching the Colbert Report. It really annoyed me that Time Warner, to whom I pay over $100 a month (including internet service) here in New York, would cry poverty over a fee charge that would probably add very little percentage wise to their bottom line. Eventually the two parties reached an agreement of course. I never watch FOX, but if I did I'd just watch on Digital TV over the air, anyway to me Time Warner is just acting like any other large corporation. Our rates were not raised noticeably after last year's dispute and I doubt they will be this year. Time Warner is no charity and they shouldn't act like one IMO. BTW I have also found out (when asking them about Comedy Central in HD) that they renew all their contracts here every year. Is anyone forcing them to do that? Why not set up long term agreements? However I would love to be able to choose my channels a la carte but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Anonymous said...

People really should fight back. I wouldn't care if those Fox channels were dropped. I heard Fox wanted to charge $1 per subscriber to pay for local channels, which most cable companies provide free. They are threatening to withhold ALL of their channels (as you mentioned) if they don't get their way. It is silly for Fox to want to charge $1 per subscriber just to cover a channel that most people can get for free over the air if they wanted to. The Fox people are greedy. Of course, Time Warner will just pass the cost along to us, because they are in business to make money too. But I'd rather let Time Warner off the hook than the greedy at Fox.