Look at that manicured lawn. The tiny, not-too-imposing sign that surely took hours to confer on. Just the right amount of trees to make it seem pleasant but not too crowded. Take a gander at that 50s-style concrete, Soviet Bloc-inspired building. It’s a place of work, where hardworking people, day in and day out, construct for you a cable service you can depend on. There’s no way they could be the bad guys – they fly an American flag for god’s sake! And I’m sure it’s at half-mast when important, sad things occur! So why would they want to deprive us of Fox programming? Because they, just like News Corp, are giant fucking assholes.
Yes, I know, hard to believe. Cablevision, a large conglomerate who has its hands in a few things (most notoriously the destruction of the New York Rangers and New York Knicks) is caught up on money, and has the audacity to say that News Corp (the parent company that owns Fox, among tons of other things from many forms of media) has nothing but money on their mind. And I’m sure there are a lot of you who are pissed at Fox for pulling their networks, not letting us, the costumer, still receive programming while they barter in the boardrooms high up above the “Gleeks” (though I do not rank among them). And I’m sure you’re upset with the greeeeeeeed with which this is all going on. “Oh!” you surely decry, “How can NewsCorp demand a 50% raise over the previous contract when nothing at all in the history of time or TV programming has ever changed during that span?”
Well let’s talk a little bit about rights fees, shall we? Fox is demanding such a giant raise hike because the game changed in between their previous two contracts. Here’s what you probably don’t know: every time you pay your cable bill for, let’s say, $90 a month, a very good chunk of that goes directly to the networks in your “basic” cable set up. I’m sure you know that premium channels like HBO and Showtime are subscription based, meaning that you pay…let’s say $20 a month to get the rights to view their programing. This fee is taken from you and melded with everyone else who wants the company’s programing and is thrown into their kity, allowing to pay for the rights to broadcast movies and fund shows like Weeds and Boardwalk Empire. This is also the main reason why these channels don’t feature commercials or have to apply to FCC regulations. You pay for it, you get the product free of outside interference. It’s a hell of a win-win for the costumer, even though we have to go out of our way and pay extra for it.
Now let’s turn to ESPN and its company of networks. Slowly but surely the World Wide Leader in Sports has done its best to live up to its name, spending untold millions (billions?) of dollars to monopolize coverage of nearly all North American sports. This allows them to leverage companies like Cablevision to pay for rights to broadcast their family of networks, for, let’s say, $4.00 per month, which, multiplied per customer, totals in the high hundreds of millions. This company, ESPN, is owned by Disney, who is also the parent company of ABC and ten to twenty other networks. So, when the ABC contract was up and the rest of the ABC family of channels went up as well, they used ESPN as leverage to get more of their share of cash.
Remember when CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox were free to view over the airwaves? Well that’s no longer the case, at least through Cablevision. Each month we pay–pay–for the rights to watch those network channels. We give money to our cable provider each month, upwards to $0.70, for the right to watch programing that is FREE. And, in an even more galling situation, these channels, which we, and this can’t be stressed enough really, PAY FOR, are still regulated by FCC rules, and are still based around advertising revenues. So we get to pay for the privilege to watch commercials and the networks rake up money for any and all sources.
I know, at this point you’re all like “how the hell is Cablevision in the wrong here?!” Since the 80s, there has been a movement for an “a la carte” pay subscription service for cable. In this case, if I only wanted to get 40 channels, I pay for 40 channels, get a cheaper rate, and don’t pay through the roof for 800 channels in which I only watch said 40. It’s a wonderful plan, and one that is sadly too easy to implement for it to ever actually occur. For sure, whatever we give per month does not go directly to the networks and the rights fees; that would leave Cablevision as some sort of do-gooder non-profit who volunteers to rot out our brains. No, they take what they can because they don’t even tell us exactly how much they as a company take per month. If we go to a pay-for-play system, it’s going to have to be a hell of a lot more transparent, as you’ll pay X amount for Y stations, specifically robbing Cablevision of the right to rob us. And why would they ever want to do that?
In the end, these are just two bullies fighting over our lunch money. Every battle that Cablevision has fought over the last 12 months (NBC and ABC, specifically) are huge, multi-pronged conglomerates fighting over how much of a share they get from the money they steal from us every month in an ever-increasing raping of our wallets. Cablevision already gave rate hikes to ABC and NBC out of fear of losing those companies so we all went somewhere else to get their TV broadcast services. They only want to fight for a “fair” fee that’s just enough for them to get their share and not enough to make you go running for Dish Network. And to try to head you off at the curve, Cablevision is smart enough to take all of the networks they own (specifically MSG and MSG+, the gatekeepers for almost all local professional teams’ sports broadcasts) and pull them from Dish Network. The choice for the costumer shrinks. The ability for Cablevision to ring you dry increases.
In the end? The giant conglomerates win–as they have been for god knows how long–and we continue to suffer while they both have the gall to point fingers at the other and say that they’re the greedy ones. And while they argue over this, and bring in politicians to poo-poo the whole deal when they could be busy with, I dunno, the two wars we’re involved in or slowly bringing down education in New Jersey, just remember that they aren’t fighting for you. No one is fighting for you. They’re just bickering over who gets to chew on which rib after they bleed you dry.