April 6, 2009 1:26 AM
OK, I've got to stop chasing my tail, and I promise this will be my last blog (for at least a little while) on the subject of the subscription TV-cable programmer price spiral. Maybe it's just the natural insecurity of a new blogger, but I feel compelled to point out whenever someone with even more experience as a reporter is reporting on something I've noticed, which--in case you haven't been reading is my completely-consumer (I'm a telecom guy, remember) fixation on subscription TV prices. This past Friday, April 3d, Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post wrote an on-line article, on the propagation of "included" channels and the unstoppable increase in subscription TV prices (the same article was printed in the Sunday, April 5th print edition of the post). Mr. Pegoraro made an observation, also from last week's Cable Show, that prices for subscription TV bundles were going higher--across the board--whether the provider be cable, telco, or satellite. His article makes some of the same observations that I have made, in a general sense, but he makes others, that are even more concise and compelling. You might have to register for the Post article, but it's short, and worth the read. However, his conclusions, and hoped-for solutions, are largely the same that surfaced in my March 24th post.
So, for those of you that don't want to set up a Post account, I'll copy the last three paragraphs of Mr. Pegoraro's article (from the on-line version, with active links), that describe the problem-solution dichotomy in a more succinct manner than I have managed to do so far:
Continue reading Stop The Video Loop! More Propagation of Complaints on Channel/Price Escalation
April 4, 2009 1:39 AM
Given last week's posts, one of the big attractions of the Cable Show was to hear how the big programmers viewed the upstart Internet content distributors. Therefore, I was especially intrigued by a panel presentation by big cable programmers cleverly titled, "Jumping Through (Hulu) Hoops: Programming for a New Video Paradigm". Every panelist seemed, in one sense or another, to regard the Internet as something to be either shunned, ignored, or to be indulged, but in limited amounts, and with great care. The primary concern with putting programming on line seemed to be jeopardizing the "dual" revenue stream that the large programmers get from subscriptions and advertising revenue. No one wanted to be "broadcasters" (not even the broadcasters--Fox and NBC)--in the sense of being reliant on advertising revenue alone.
The spectrum of opinions regarding the value of placing programming on the Internet seemed to go from the "more progressive" that saw some perceived value in either using the Internet to "monetize" (this was a word that was used a lot) non-first-run (i.e., repeat) programming, or in using the Internet to promote interest in new channels, or new shows on existing channels.
Continue reading Dr. Strange-Cable Programmer-Love: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Big Programmers, Big Distributors, and Big Subscription TV Prices . . . While I Wait on Internet TV
March 30, 2009 7:48 PM
It's rare that I actually notice a policy issue at the same time as everyone else (or at least one other person--but from a very credible newspaper), so I wanted to toot my own horn and note that the New York Times had an article yesterday, and a blog entry by Saul Hansell of the Times around the same time I posted my blog entry last week on the consumer backlash against traditional, high-priced, subscription TV programming. The Times article notes that, despite the big programmers desire to use the Internet as yet another subscription-bundling opportunity, the Internet has a way of creating unpredictable consequences. Well, the Cable Show is in DC this week (for the first time in 40 years), and--thanks to the kind invitation of the ever-classy NCTA CEO, Kyle McSlarrow --I am planning to attend (for the first time in more than 40 years). I've always heard great things about the Cable Show, and I'm really looking forward to it.
As you might guess, I'm especially interested in whether the topic of Internet-based subscription TV is discussed and how the industry leaders view this issue. This will probably be the one panel discussion I miss--if it comes up at all! If the issue comes up, though, I can't promise an up-to-the-minute report, but I might be able to beat my 16 day lapse from when Julius Genachowski was nominated to be FCC Chairman, and when I posted something about it;-)
March 24, 2009 3:09 PM
A poor man's Dr Seuss, sure, but Harold Feld already took the best content-related blog title, with "The Fragmentation Games Continue: Cable Has a Plan So Cunning Even THEY Can't Figure It Out". BTW, Congratulations to Harold on his new position as Legal Director for Public Knowledge.
The point of this post, though, as the title indicates, is that right now subscription television (with vertically-integrated cable as the price leader) and many large programmers are complicit partners in a vicious, and unsustainable, price spiral that appears to take no notice of, or concern for, the economic plight of average Americans. According to the FCC, the price of "expanded basic" cable--the package most people buy--has risen by 122% over the past 13 years, compared with the average consumer price index ("CPI") increase of 38% during the same period. (see paragraph 2, Chart 1) Nevertheless, Emily Dickinson sagely observed, "[p]eople need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles."
Why am I going into all this, though? I'm not really a "media bureau" guy, and I'm by no means an expert on video market regulation. That said, I think that--in terms of TV viewing tastes--and probably every other type of taste as well--I'm an average-to-below-average kind of guy. For example, I think "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike TV is THE best show on television . . . period. And, despite their disappointing performance against Memphis last weekend, don't take my Comcast-owned Terps away! Maybe this is why I think that, if even I'm noticing this issue, then other average guys (and gals) are also. Moreover, if I'm noticing this problem enough to whine about it, then so are lots of other consumers, and lots of other big companies are seeing an opportunity. Why do I think this is such a big consumer issue for the next FCC? Because a lot of really big, really smart, businesses are investing a lot of money into devices and software designed to bypass subscription TV.
Continue reading Let's See . . . Boxee, Sony, Roku . . . High Priced Content Won't Do