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!
Fans 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.