Take this game and shove it! When will cable TV accept the challenge of Web 2.0?

buckeye.jpgQ: What the hell’s a buckeye?

A: Just another nut from Ohio.

Ohio State’s Buckeyes used the Akron Zips for cannon fodder this weekend. OSU fans were a tad disappointed that their team scored just 20 points. But hey, a “W” is a “W,” right? Zips fans were happy their team earned a $375,000 payday for what amounts to a scrimmage and no one was killed or maimed in the process.

It seems like a classic win-win situation, but not everyone sees it that way — since many of the Buckeye faithful didn’t see the game at all!

images.jpgFans who depend on Time Warner or ComCast to access the new Big Ten Network found themselves blacked out for the second consecutive week. Seems the cable giants are balking at the Big Ten’s demand for $1.10 per subscriber, plus a preferred position in the basic-channel tier. That position will guarantee some big revenues for the network across the 8 states it targets.

If you believe their rhetoric, the cable companies seem to be taking a stand against out-of-control costs. This piece from my local paper puts it in perspective (it’s available free through 9/15). And this quote from Time Warner VP Bill Jasso sums it up:

“We don’t want to lose a single customer,” Jasso said, ”but we have a consistent operating philosophy. Time Warner’s strategy is, enough is enough with sports programming costs. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

”It’s gotten too far out of control because you think we’re taking a lot of heat over the YSU, Akron U, OSU games? Wait until it comes rate time. That’s when we take our heat.”

The Web 2.0 world offers near-unlimited digital choices. So isn’t it ironic that we have so little choice when it comes to basic TV programming? Sure, that’ll change in the next few years as television moves to Internet delivery. But for now, my cable payment subsidizes sports programming from ESPN, Fox Sports and Sports Time Ohio, among others. STO is the only one I use, since it carries Indians games (Go, Tribe!).

The problem goes beyond Ohio and the Big Ten. Execs at Disney are learning that cable companies cannot or will not cover the cost of ESPN’s ever-expanding menu. This from Bloomberg News:

Professional football, baseball, basketball and auto-racing contracts that take effect by October 2009 will boost expenses by $1.02 billion a year, just as agreements with cable operators Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. limit subscriber-fee increases to an annual average of 7 percent, according to estimates by UBS Securities analyst Michael Morris in New York.

Seems a perfect time for cable companies to answer the demand for ala carte programming, don’t you think? You want sports? You pay for it, just as you pay for premium channels like HBO or expanded sports options like the NFL Sunday Ticket.

If the cost of ala carte sports programming is too high for you, then vote with your checkbook. But don’t ask me to finance your addiction. I suggest, instead, that you ask Peyton Manning or Jeff Gordon to work for a little less.

By refusing us choices today, cable companies run the risk of losing us entirely when the “new” media offer choices next month or next year. And that, dear readers, gets to the core public relations issue here.

When you limit choices of your key publics, you force them to look elsewhere for satisfaction. But you also piss them off. That’s bad public relations in any context.

7 Responses to Take this game and shove it! When will cable TV accept the challenge of Web 2.0?

  1. Bill Huey says:

    The answer to the question posed in your headline is: NEVER.
    The Web is competitive; cable networks loathe competition. The Web is innovative–another thing they loathe, being monopolists at heart.
    Their job (as they see it) is to send out bills every month, raise rates every chance they get, and do as little as possible otherwise. That’s how to make huge money in the cable business.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    We can only hope these companies get their comeupance, Bill. And the sooner the better. They give us a mediocre product, less-than-mediocre service, all at a price that defies the free market. I’d like to think AT&T’s entry could change all this. But the company has a long history as a regulated Bell monopoly. We’ll see.

    Funny, but Time Warner and their ilk seem to be fighting to retain status quo. Are they buying time to build a new delivery model, or are they simply that arrogant? To quote old Johnny Cash, “I hear the train a comin’.”

  3. I think the cost of Cable TV is a little ridiculous. But so is everything today. Do you think satellite TV is a better value?

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Not sure why I approved that comment to a 15-month old post. I suspect I’m part of an SEO scam by ComCast. Nevertheless, I’ll answer. Is the dish a better value? It would seem so. But I need my hi-speed Internet (well, “high speed” is a relative term when you’re dealing with Time Warner), so I do cable. Where I live, the choices are pretty limited.

    But I resent being charged for crap I neither need nor want — like Big 10 football. You want it, you pay for it. Ditto for ESPN and Fox Sports. We’re not talking about roads and bridges that we all use here. We talking about TV sports. Give me choices. Because if you don’t someone soon will. And just watch how quickly I leave my cable provider. Just watch.

  5. Then I have an idea for you. Buy TV from Dish Network and get High Speed Internet from another source. There is an old saying that goes “You can have anything you want, but not everything you want”. If you follow my suggestion….you can have it all!

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hmm. So you really aren’t part of an SEO scam for ComCast. I stand corrected.

    Now, last I checked, the ONLY thing cable had that Dish Net did not was a full schedule of Indians games — the only sports on TV I care about. Wonder if that’s changed.

  7. Into where current, can see his?And tell everyone, small airplane pilots.A cash back, in common is.Native to temperate satellite tv deals, We strongly encourage and Privacy: Hotel.Clearly manipulating the, thought they would.,

%d bloggers like this: