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.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays – That’s Right, Happy Holidays!

When did saying “Happy Holidays” become so offensive? These days, it seems that if you say “Have a happy holiday,” some people make it sound like you are killing Christmas. I think the true meaning of Christmas for Christians – celebrating the birth of Jesus – was vaporized long ago, and Christmas is more of a secular, commercial holiday where the focus is on giving – and getting – gifts.

I grew up in a very strict Catholic household but have been a lapsed Catholic for many years now. So if someone says “happy holidays” to me I won’t take offense, and if they say Merry Christmas to me I won’t take offense either. In fact, they can say “happy winter” to me and it wouldn’t bother me. If I know the person’s religious beliefs, I make sure that I acknowledge their holiday. But, I encounter so many people on a given day that I don’t know well (like a cashier working in the local supermarket) that “have a great holiday” or something of that nature is probably safest bet. I also have many readers of my blogs that come from all around the world and saying “Have a Merry Christmas” to everyone seems disrespectful to those who are not Christian.

No one is trying to kill Christmas by saying “happy holidays,” they are likely just trying to be respectful of the various beliefs, or maybe even non-beliefs, of others. My advice is that when you know if someone is Christian, feel free to say Merry Christmas. If you know they are Jewish, wish them a Happy Hanukkah.. If you are not sure, wish them a happy holiday, as it at least shows your hope that they enjoy themselves and have good times during whatever holiday they celebrate. And if someone wishes YOU a happy holiday, please accept it as a peaceful gesture.

Here is my wish: whatever you celebrate this time of the year, I hope you have a happy, peaceful time filled with family and friends!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leave Tiger Alone!

Poor Tiger Woods. He’s in the middle of a perfect PR tornado. He’s a golf mega-star who is very careful to protect his squeaky clean image, but unfortunately, he also seems to have been exposed as a philanderer. Now the media is literally beating his image to death with it.

Tiger’s perfect PR image began to unravel after a strange car accident in front of his own home, where, in the wee hours, he hit a fire hydrant and then a tree and was injured in the process. It seemed his wife had to use a golf club to get Tiger out of the car, and he appeared to be rendered unconscious from his accident. Police said Tiger was not intoxicated. Question arose immediately. What was he doing leaving the house at such an hour? Why did he seem to be traveling at such a rate of speed pulling out of his own driveway to cause such damage to his car and such injuries to his face? How was it so convenient his wife had a golf club in her hand to be able to use it to get him out of the car? Was there an argument? Did she beat him with the golf club? Was there an argument over an affair? The questions came up and grew exponentially. Unfortunately, Tiger responded in a rather rational way, taking responsibility for the event but saying nothing any substance.

The media of course wasn’t satisfied and continued to dig. Of course, gossip lovers were in heaven as this story just continued to feed on itself and grow bigger with each day. Things got really bad when a voice mail which appeared to be from Tiger left for “another woman” seemed to confirm that he was indeed playing around – no, not playing a round (of golf) – playing around. Despite the fact that the media continues to play the recording, admitting it has not been officially confirmed it was Tiger, Tiger suddenly admits to transgressions and asks for privacy . OK, I will admit, that voice mail message sounds exactly like Tiger, so let the media frenzy begin!

Tiger Woods is an amazing golfer, clearly one of the best ever. But it should be no surprise to anyone that his personal life is not perfect. No one can make that claim. But the media coverage of this matter is getting a little crazy. Everyone is falling over themselves in order to help smear Tiger’s image, almost enjoying the fact that he managed the whole situation very badly. Tiger’s fault here is that he had the nerve – the nerve! – to expect that he can have a private life (note sarcasm). Sadly, in this day and age, there is no such thing as a private life, especially for the famous. But really, I think Tiger has been beaten a little too much over this issue. The media, who was instrumental in building Tiger’s image into a golf god, is now working overtime to damn him to the depths of the hell reserved for famous people who make errors in judgment. I can understand a gossip paper such as the National Inquirer making a big deal over this, but now all the major networks are keeping this story in their leads. It really doesn’t belong there.

Tiger’s big mistake was not by cheating, but by trying to cover up the matter when it was clear that the car accident was going to bring personal matters out into the open. OK, it’s out into the open, now it’s time to leave Tiger alone and let him patch up the mess in private. And it’s time for the media to go back to reporting real news about things that really matter – the economy, the war, politics, etc. and leave the gossip reporting to the National Inquirer.

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