Updated, 2:30 p.m. Consumer group says what this fight is all about: Money, not consumers. See below.
News Corp. began its advertising blitz against Time Warner Cable today by appealing to viewers who are fans of “NFL on Fox,” “24,” “American Idol” and “The Simpsons.” The word-heavy commercial says:
“Time Warner Cable is using programming costs as an excuse to raise your bill while they continue to rake in billions in profits and even though they’ve just announced a 20% rate increase in some cities, they’re telling you they may have to increase your bill again to continue to offer the NFL on Fox, 24, American Idol, The Simpsons, Glee and more. Tell Time Warner Cable to stop making exucuses and continue to give you the programs you want at a price that is fair.”
The commercial then offers a phone to call in — 866-KEEP-FOX — and a Web site: Keepfoxon.com.
Time Warner, which has 14 million subscribers, says the opposite. A spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, which is also owned by News Corp., “Negotiations are ongoing, but Fox’s current demands are unreasonable, especially in this economic climate,” said Maureen Huff, a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman.
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When it comes to Fox TV,
But wait. What’s really happening here?
For nine months, News Corp. and Time Warner have been negotiating over the price Time Warner must pay per subscriber in order to offer Fox and other channels to viewers.
If a deal isn’t reached by midnight Dec. 31, Time Warner subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, Detroit, Orlando and Tampa could lose Fox TV and other News Corp.’s channels, which include FX, SPEED, FUEL TV, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Reality Channel, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Español.
But neither side is mentioning dollar figures. The only official hint comes from Time Warner, which began its own campaign last month against TV networks who want “up to 300 percent” more than what the cable provider already pays them for TV channels. That campaign doesn’t mention Fox in particular. Read more about the campaign here: “Hate paying more for cable TV? Time Warner is taking a vote.”
UPDATED, 2:32 p.m.: Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, isn’t surprised to see the public battle and reminds consumers that it isn’t about offering viewers the shows they want to watch, it’s about money.
“If they really gave a damn about what the impact was on consumers, they would let the consumers pick what channels they want, but they don’t,” he said. “…Both parties have dirty hands. They’re trying to squeeze the consumer, they’re trying squeeze each other. All of it comes down to money.”
The advocacy group promotes a la carte TV, which would allow consumers pay for only the channels they want to watch. It hosts the site HowCableShouldBe.com, which has a nifty chart detailing how much the average consumer pays monthly to get ESPN ($3.80), the Disney Channel ($0.95) and several other channels.
And yes,to answer reader Bobomo’s comment, this did happen last year between Time Warner and another network. Last New Year’s Eve, Time Warner customers waited to hear if Viacom was really going to pull Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and more than a dozen other channels if it didn’t get a new deal with Time Warner. The two resolved their differences by midnight without uttering a word about how much it will cost Time Warner or its subscribers. See last year’s story, “Time Warner Cable may lose Jon Stewart, MTV, more.”
While Time Warner began notifying Southern California customers last week of 2010 rate hikes (see “Time Warner 2010 price hikes mostly affect those who order the least“), this doesn’t include any possible price increase related to the Fox dispute. Today, Time Warner sent its subscribers an e-mail reminding them to fight against the 300 percent increase.
Industry magazine Variety reports that News Corp. wants $1 per cable customer. But at stake is something even greater, Variety says. This isn’t just about cable channels. It’s about a major network: Fox. Previously, cable providers negotiated payments with the local Fox, ABC, CBS or NBC network, trading ”space on a cable lineup for their fledgling cable programming ventures.” But now, News Corp. wants to make sure it gets more cash, according to Variety.
If no agreement is reached by Dec. 31, Fox says there is an alternative to watching Fox shows: The free over-the-air access like the good ol’ days.
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