Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ABC Could Pull Plug Off Cablevision

Just months after losing Scripps programming during contract discussions and almost seeing FOX pulled, another network is threatening the same path. In this case it is a broadcaster, WABC in New York, but the target remains the same, Cablevision. "ABC says that it may pull its WABC-TV New York signal from Cablevision at 12:01 a.m. on March 7 unless the cable operator agrees to pay for the channel in a retransmission-consent dispute. Broadcasters are increasingly pushing for cash in their retransmission-consent negotiations for their channels given the size of their audiences relative to cable networks that receive higher per-sub fees." I get the need for fees for cable networks, but I would like to think that broadcast signals are a different story. It is essentially over-the-air signals being captured and aired on cable. While not entirely technically true, the fact is that broadcast should remain "free" TV.

And trust me when I say that ABC won't suffer. In fact all the major broadcasters also own cable networks as well as additional digital offshoots of their broadcast signal. For ABC, Disney, Family ESPN and others can certainly support ABC's bottom line.

Eventually these broadcast, now digital, signals will become IP delivered signals, free to the TV over a broadband or wireless connection. It is this unlimited access to the world that means that their should not be a fee for carriage; otherwise, count ABC as simply another cable network. And isn't that the concern the FCC has with the NBCUniversal Comcast merger. The worry that Comcast will turn the NBC broadcast signal into another cable network.

But I may be too late to this argument. Broadcast television has already been receiving fees for carriage. And once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to plug it back up. Still, for our sake, the consumer and viewer, it is worth a try by the FCC. Otherwise you might as well turn them all into cable networks!

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