Monday, December 21, 2009

Time Warner vs. Fox

Tough Love

Time Warner wants us to believe them yet again.

This is the same Time Warner that is just about the only programming provider in the Austin area that does not have a deal with the NFL Network. Not that I have any deep and abiding love for the NFL Network, but I did want to see a telecast of the Dallas Cowboys against the New Orleans Saints this past weekend. I could have sought out a friend with Dish, Direct TV, or Grande. I could have gone to a nearby sports bar and watched with a room full of loud people whom I do not know. Instead, I was relegated to’s “live” coverage punctuated with its insipid “insights” into the game that was often going on in the background. Once, I could see the replay the sideline reporter was describing in a screen. It was something, but I’d rather have had the game.

This is the same Time Warner that has moved the free over-the-air digital stations, such as public television’s KLRU TV’s two side channels to the digital tier, out of the reach of customers who cannot or wish not to pay for it. There are blank spaces in the basic spectrum where worthy channels used to live. Now, they are gone or out of reach. I’ve wondered why we have blank channels.

This is the same Time Warner that went to war with LIN TV, owner of KXAN TV (NBC) and a couple of dozen other stations around the country over retransmission rights and payments last year. This Time Warner couldn’t make a deal with LIN, so they took KXAN out of the line-up.

Now, this same Time Warner is playing hardball with Fox and KTBC TV (Fox owned and operated) locally. This time the stakes are higher because conditions have changed, and I wouldn’t want to negotiate with Rupert Murdoch and his minions. The contract runs out January 1st.

TW’s tact is much different this time. They emailed all subscribers asking whether subscribers wanted TW to “get tough” with the networks—a pre-emptive strike. They asked for viewers votes. Apparently, viewers said, “Get tough.” Now, TW can say that they have the viewers on their side. It could be interpreted as the old saw, “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.”

So, acting on that TW is taking out full-page ads in the Austin American-Statesman (not cheap) saying, “You told use to get tough. We listened.” Time Warner claims TV networks are demanding price increases as high as 300%...” or “…they’ll pull the plug on their programs.” Time Warner wants you to believe that it, the second largest cable provider in the country, is the victim.

Fox, meantime, responded with its own full page ad (not cheap) of its own shouting, “Time Warner cable isn’t playing fair, and you could lose Fox.” Fox warns of future rate increases. Folks, if you were ready for the “digital revolution”, you will not lose Fox. You can pick it up off the air in full high definition, if you are so equipped.

Both TW and Fox have set up web sites to voice your opinion.

You do have a choice, of course. You can ignore the hullaballoo, have your Fox programming too. You may be able to change programming providers to keep the national programming. You can watch Fox over the air. It’s free.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Anonymous said...

No more Fox???! Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Great point about the open channels on the non-digital tier.
The true winning proposition for consumers is ala carte pricing (something TWC is scared to death of).
TWC makes money charging folks for local stations, yet doesn't want to pay fair market value for the retransmission rights. Yet as you pointed out Jim, they've moved KLRU and started blocking channels that were once passed through to consumers for free.

Thank goodness for Directv, Dish and AT&T U-Verse

Anonymous said...


I also wanted to see the Dallas Cowboys game, so I went to a sports bar and enjoyed the game and had dinner and drinks to go with a victory.

I don't like the fact that Time Warner doesn't have the NFL channel, but you have to keep the bigger picture in mind. The channel's costs would be passed on to customers.

Time Warner is also facing retransmission payment demands from Fox, to be followed by higher retransmission payment demands from other networks.

If Time Warner caves in to all of the demands, a typical monthly customer bill could go up several dollars. Now you may not have a problem with paying several more dollars, but some consumers might drop Time Warner, as a result.

Time Warner has to do what it can to remain competitive in price.

Anonymous said...


You should consider writing about this.

Time Warner may benefit from something else that is developing.

On Dec.2, the FCC announced it's going to look at whether it should strip TV broadcast stations of some of their broadcast spectrum and use it instead for wireless broadband services.
Wrong move says KXAN's owner, LIN TV.
In a Dec. 16 letter to the FCC, LIN distribution vice president Rebecca Duke says, "First the basic premise of the (FCC)Public Notice, that our country faces a severe nationwide shortage of spectrum for wireless broadband, has no foundation in the record. LIN believes the (FCC) Public Notice is wrong to accept the existence of a spectrum shortage as a certainty without acknowledging the substantial dispute the record reflects in that question."
LIN TV says, If the National Broadcast Plan proposes broadcast spectrum reallocation as a policy option, it should conspiciously state that the option was first considered late in the process and that broadcasters were given little time to respond to sweeping uestions on a wide range of topics."

Duke says, "Television broadcasting is a central element of the nation's communications services mix, and proposals that would fundamentally alter or substantially diminish the service cannot be accepted lightly."
Other broadcast companies are expected to chime in on this subject this week.

Jim, here is the company letter:

Here's the FCC public notice:

Anonymous said...

Kill your cable. Rabbit ears bring in the best picture possible. Nothing on tv? Talk to your wife, family, neighbors or read a book. We are far too dependent on tv to keep us entertained.

Anonymous said...

Since I put up my nice, big outdoor antennas last year, I laugh at these squabbles over paying to rebroadcast "free" TV.

I'm 60 miles (as the crow flies) from the Austin transmitters and the picture is great on all of them. I also have the locals through satellite, but the "free" picture is better anyway.