Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ABC Cablevision Fight To Get Nasty

The contract negotiation between ABC and Cablevision is tuning nasty. Just months ago, Fox went through this same issue with Cablevision and only last minute negotiations saved them from being pulled off the air; Scripps Networks negotiations with Cablevision went from bad to worse and customers lost these networks for a couple weeks. Now it is ABC's turn. And they seem to be following the playbook. Open letters in newspapers, websites devoted to save the channel, and Facebook friends connecting under this same type of group. And Cablevision will hold the line till the very end until 12th hour negotiations on March 7 either save the channel or drop it from availability for Cablevision customers. Ultimately a no win scenario.

"The signal for ABC’s New York station, WABC, has been retransmitted, essentially free, by Cablevision for decades, but Cablevision said Tuesday that ABC now wanted $40 million a year, or about $1 a month for each subscriber." At the same time, ABC, and its owner Disney get tons of subscription revenue from its other networks - Disney, ESPN, Family, and others. But they are cable networks and ABC is broadcast. Both offered over the air and through cable lines, but a broadcast signal nonetheless. Does it or any broadcaster deserve a fee? This speaks to the heart of the argument.

It also points out the potential problem that faces the Comcast NBC merger. A distribution platform owning a broadcaster presents many problems of fair and equitable distribution; profit before public. It is the fundamental problem that should force the FCC to not approve the merger. Just imagine what might happen when it is NBC's turn to negotiate its "carriage" on Cablevision, Cox, or one of Comcast's rivals, Verizon, AT&T, et al. And what about pursuing new distribution platforms not beholden to a cable platform, like IP. Cablevision's negotiation with ABC is simply a precursor to the bigger problems that a Comcast NBC merger represents.

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