Sunday, March 07, 2010

Note to ABC: you can all go to hell

I have no love for Cablevision, whose customer service is actually pretty good, but whose tech support is abysmal. They never could explain the occasional, seemingly random outages for three or four hours at a time (and which for all I know could happen more often, when nobody's home). One time the goddamn idiot "technician" on the phone wanted me to reboot my cable box, completely clueless though I repeatedly said I was getting no signal to begin with.

Cablevision can get away with this because they have a monopoly. It isn't because they're the biggest cable company, but because my home county of Westchester has granted them exclusive "rights" over all cable operations. (Because these aren't true rights, I enclosed that word in quotes. The proper word for what's given to people by government is authority.) But I've stuck with Cablevision for nine years because they have the fastest Internet service for the price. Satellite with DSL wouldn't work for me, and even the new FIOS doesn't look promising for me. Verizon claims to be faster but has to compare their $145 monthly plan for broadband to Cablevision's basic $45 plan.

But regarding the "failed negotiations" between Cablevision and ABC, I have to side completely with Cablevision when I say: to hell with you, ABC. Cablevision has been paying $200 million annually to ABC, and ABC has been demanding $240 million. ABC has pulled the plug on the "negotiations" of the last two years, consequently pulling the plug on ABC broadcasts over Cablevision. I woke up this morning to find that ABC made good on its threat.

ABC's pitiful claims like "Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year" are outright lies. Who the hell does ABC think they're kidding? Cablevision's customers may have paid $8 billion last year, but Cablevision hardly "pocketed" it. Certainly its owners made a profit, as they're entitled to, but the bulk of that $8 billion went to pay for operational costs and licenses -- including licenses to ABC for the right to broadcast the programming.

And why won't ABC note that out of that $8 billion, $200 million went just to ABC? Why won't ABC note that they now want $240 million for what's otherwise standard "free" airwaves broadcasting, including commercials?

The more complete quote is, "Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year", and now customers aren't getting what they pay for." That last part is true: I'm not getting what I pay for, because ABC is demanding too much.

"This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement."

"Rebecca Campbell, President and General Manager WABC-TV," you execrable liar.

The plug could have been pulled at any other time in those two years. Is it a coincidence that it happened right before the Oscars? Now, I couldn't tell you the last time I watched anything on ABC, and I rarely watch awards shows. However, I wanted to see how Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin would do as co-hosts, and I expected Christoph Waltz to receive Best Supporting Actor for his superb portrayal of a charmingly sinister Nazi "detective."

Well, I'm not throwing an antenna on the roof just for the Oscars, so I'll just have to see what I can get online.

Then you have idiots like this: "Cablevision, the Country's fifth largest cable provider, removed ABC from its channel lineup after failing to come to an agreement over fees." No, ABC blocked Cablevision. ABC controls the broadcasting and stopped its signal to Cablevision. How can people be so fucking stupid? If Cablevision could have kept broadcasting, it would.

And just when I thought Regis and Kelly, the self-centered morons who individually or together are the very definition of "insipid," couldn't be any more lacking in gray matter, here's this exchange between two of the biggest idiots ever on television:
Kelly: Have you seen what’s happening here in New York between Cablevision and WABC? I was reading about it today in the paper and I saw it this morning on the news. I couldn’t believe it.

Regis: Starting Monday here in New York, if Cablevision and Channel 7 don’t come to an agreement, viewers will not be able to watch “Regis & Kelly.”

Kelly: That’s right.

Regis: Just a reminder, Cablevision gets paid by the subscribers and Channel 7 is not paid.

Kelly: They’ve been negotiating this -

Regis: For two years now –

Kelly: And apparently, it’s, you know, I always thought our show is free, but apparently, Cablevision subscribers pay for the privilege to watch this. [Laughter]
So why does Cablevision pay $200 million annually to ABC? Is that a charitable contribution? Goddamn airheads. For all we know, post-mortems on them would prove that's literally true.

It's bullshit like this that prove once again how free markets are the only way to go. Having the option for another cable company would demonstrate that ABC's demand for $200 $240 million annually is absurd -- and possible only because the state has destroyed cable competition. Another cable competitor could provide programming à la carte, or at least more channel packages of greater variety, that I and many other viewers want but can't get.

4 Comments:

Blogger Ike said...

I blame both sides. I don't necessarily believe the $200m or $240m numbers that Cablevision is throwing around (although I sure as heck don't believe ABC either). Cablevision is known for being a hard-nosed, arrogant negotiator. ABC needs to find some other way to get a new revenue stream instead of trying to pry it from the cable companies, but they won't, and Cablevision should probably recognize that and compromise. They're all scumbags.

Sunday, March 07, 2010 7:33:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Well, Ike, the $200 million/$240 million is pretty much unarguable. ABC News itself has reported:

Cablevision has argued that Disney is seeking an additional $40 million a year in new fees, even though the company pays more than $200 million a year to Disney.

Disney counters by arguing that Cablevision charges customers $18 per month for basic broadcast signals but does not pass on any payment for ABC to Disney.


We can construe ABC's silence on the 200/240 as concession of its truth. Otherwise it would have been easy for ABC to call out Cablevision on a lie, and nothing would have made Cablevision look more like the bad guy.

But wait a minute, if Cablevision really "does not pass on any payment for ABC to Disney," then what is that annual $200 million for? It's for the entire package of ABC-owned channels. Perhaps WABC itself is "free," but that's like buying several items and getting another "free."

Also, do you not find it curious that of all the signals ABC has cut off to Cablevision, it's the one "free" channel?

I had seen some commercial claiming that Cablevision charges its customers $500 million a year for watching ABC, which to me is unbelievable. Even though ABC is supposedly the most-watched network in the country, it's 1/16th of Cablevision's revenue stream?

In any business, you have to be a tough negotiator. If it's considered "arrogance," well, so be it. If someone demanded a 20% higher rate or he'd stop dealing with me, and I refuse because my customers wouldn't tolerate the necessary hike, is it really "arrogant"? But let's say that Cablevision will "compromise." If Cablevision pays that extra $40 million, or $20 million, who will ultimately pay for it? Will Cablevision cut staff pay, or lay off employees, to make it up? Of course not. Cablevision's 3.1 million customers will.

I will agree completely on ABC's revenue stream, though. Actually, it's more Disney's revenue stream. Cablevision has accused Disney of trying to shore up sagging profits in its other operations, e.g. theme parks.

Sunday, March 07, 2010 7:59:00 PM  
Blogger jk said...

Satellite?

Monday, March 08, 2010 6:55:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Not a good option for me, since I'd have to go with DSL (blah) for my broadband Internet, or Verizon FIOS (and pay a surcharge for not having their cable package).

Monday, March 08, 2010 7:23:00 PM  

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