TWC vs FOX – The faux Fighters
So, a mock battle blew into town today with the latest war of words between 21st century robber barons Time Warner Cable and Fox TV. TWC have an almost total lock on Cable TV here in Austin, as well as commensurate hold on wired broadband. Fox, who are part of the Murdoch News Corporation media empire, whose influence, especially in a waining market for traditional news and entertainment, continues to grow. They both have ads in todays Statesman, whose Brian Gaar has been covering the squabble since back before Thanksgiving.
It’s a virtuous circle, Statesman cover the “faux fight”, TWC and News Corp aka Fox buy space in the Statesman; TWC charges us for cable, Fox charges TWC for their coverage; Fox sells advertising space during and between it’s coverage, and when they can, they charge directly for the product; the advertisers put up their price to cover their additional cost. The common theme here… we get charged more for what is little more than a fake fight. In the end we know the corporations will settle, it’s in all their best interests. They just want to obfuscate the issues so much that in the end we will just accept what ever we are told. The “opposing” sides have already launched web sites with their own version of the truth.
TWC would have it that FOX are demanding a 300% rate hike in order to carry their programming. According to the Statesman, Time Warner’s current deal with FOX in Austin, and several other markets (like Dallas, LA, Detroit, Orlando, and Tampa) expires at midnight Dec. 31st. We’ve seen this before with TWC, and the same “play” is also running between Comcast and Directv over teh Versus network. At the heart of the issue is the same seen in previous other disputes between cable network providers and the cable company: Money.
Given the channel bundles that are forced on us on all the TV providers, not just TWC, a 300% rise isn’t really such a big deal, TWC carry hundreds of channels, and charge a bundle for anything over the legal minimum channel bundle. Fox on the other hand have dozens of channels. which I for one never watch. Ok, I do record games off the Fox Soccer Channel, check the result and if it looks like a good game, put it on one evening. Fox would have it that TWC has a license to print money, and what it is asking compared to what it provides, the additional charge is easily justified. TWC on the other hand is raking money in from both charging for basic programming, and cable bundles, as well as from video/movies on demand and profits and revenue is up…. Fox looks on admiringly and wonders, “how can we get a piece of that action?”
The real issue here is the lack of transparency and obfuscation. TWC should be subject to two rules in any market where they provide cable. ONE. They should allow customers to select their own cable channels and channel bundles. Trust me, I wouldn’t want any of the News Corp. aka Fox channels, and given the quality of most of the non-HD channels on TWC, I’d even pass up on the Fox Soccer Channel, as you really can’t tell who has the ball during a long shot. That would allow TWC to defray the charge demanded by Fox, since the Fox signal actually isn’t being broadcast to however-many-million viewers. TWO. On their web site, TWC should be be REQUIRED to list the constituent rebroadcast costs for each channel and for the services that TWC provide.
Of course, neither TWC or News Corp. would want that. It allows customers to have a real choice, which they don’t have now. It also effectively eliminates these faux battles that get drummed up as negotiating tactics by marketing departments every time a deal is up for renewal. 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on TWC’s side. They provide a service which is barely out of the 1990′s, and their DVR/Cable box and remote, barely out of the 1980′s. I’m certainly not on FOX’s side, since I really don’t watch any of their coverage and mostly the only time I see any of their “news” its when it is being lampooned by Jon Stewart, which interestingly, I watch on the Internet for free…
[TIA: I updated a number of minor typos in this post, my apologies]