I forget exactly when I tuned my TV to WBCS-TV news in New York and saw a printed message instead of a TV broadcast, but it was about a week ago. A day or two after that, that particular channel (Channel 2 or HD Channel 702) has been broadcasting some third rate movie channel in the place of CBS.
What’s going on? CBS had blocked Time-Warner Cable from transmitting its shows, in a dispute over the fees Time-Warner pays CBS for the privilege.
For weeks before, viewers in New York like me had been bombarded with TV spots from both sides. Each side told me what a greedy, unreasonable, grasping, evil bunch of bastards the other side is.
Know something? I think they’re both right about that.
The real victims
The only victims in this war are cable TV subscribers, who are paying Time Warner for CBS and not getting it. You’d think Congress might have something to say about this. Hah! According to the trade newspaper Advertising Age, Washington sees no percentage in getting involved with this, because the broadcast lobby is a big political campaign contributor, and nobody wants to turn off the spigot. I quote from Ad Age:
Congress probably won't act quickly, in part because broadcasters are a potent lobbying force present in every lawmaker's district, said Jeffrey Silva, a Washington-based analyst with Medley Global Advisors.
Political nonstarter "This is a fight between two parties," Mr. Silva said. "What upside is there from taking on the broadcasters?"
Nor should anybody weep for Time-Warner, the second largest cable broadcaster in America. Their parent company, Time Inc., just posted a 25 percent gain in operating earnings: nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for the second quarter of this year, as compared to less than half a billion dollars for the same quarter this year.
However the resolution shakes out, in the end the greedy bastards will end up directly or indirectly raising cable subscription rates for millions of cable subscribers like you and me, so that Les Moonves of CBS and Jeff Bewkes of Time-Warner can reward themselves with bigger bonuses, and keep paying off Congress.
Hurt them. Hurt them both.
One of the things Cable Viewers can do to sting these guys back, at least a little, would be not to complain to Time-Warner about the absence of CBS and to look into switching to RCN or – even though I hate them, too – look into Verizon Fios.
The switch would hurt Time-Warner. Meanwhile, the decrease in advertising revenues (which are based on audience size) will hurt CBS.
In an ideal universe, CBS and Time-Warner would put each other out of business, like two gladiators armed with long-poled hammers, simultaneously clobbering the other in the head. That failing, their respective chairmen could be locked together, stark naked and face to face, in a very small trunk, unequipped with a toilet, for eternity, in hell. Well, maybe we could squeeze in a few congressmen and senators, too.