Cable Companies Squeezing Every Last Penny Out Of Dwindling TV Monopoly

from the that-won't-last dept

Over the weekend, the NY Times ran an article noting how cable TV prices had continued to greatly outpace inflation over the last few years. It notes that while there have been plenty of predictions of cable's demise, especially at the hands of Silicon Valley, it just hasn't happened... yet. But that "yet" may become more important soon. Right now, it's true that cable companies often have close to a virtual monopoly on providing television programming. While there has been some competition from satellite TV players and (in a few areas) TV over IP, the big question is really how will the internet play a role. The problem has always been that most TVs still aren't hooked up directly to the internet, nor is there an easy interface to watch internet-accessed content on the TV. No matter how expensive or annoying cable is, it does have that convenience factor, which is important when dealing with "sit back and watch" content.

However, where some still see the high prices of companies without serious competition, others see opportunity. There certainly have been a few attempts, but we're seeing more and more stories every day of companies coming out with technologies that try to make it easier to access internet content on your TV. Eventually, someone (or multiple someones) will come up with the systems that not only match the convenience of traditional TV, but also add other features that cable just won't be able to easily copy (chatting about a TV show with other viewers remains a big opportunity, for example). So, if you're wondering why cable companies like Comcast and Cox are so into traffic shaping, it might have more to do with fears over the upcoming video competition from the internet than any real worries about their networks getting congested.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Twinrova, May 28th, 2008 @ 4:15am

    No subject

    "chatting about a TV show with other viewers remains a big opportunity, for example"
    Just what I want to pay for: A bunch of people cussing about a TV show, much like they do about gaming.

    Thanks, but I'll pass.

    There's an important feature you're missing about cable and that's "on demand" programming. This aspect of cable is nice because it gives me, the viewer, the ability to watch a show I may have missed due to multiple recording issues or simple forgetfulness.

    If you think for one second cable companies are going to sit back and simply "allow" internet content to take their "dominance" in programming, you'll quickly find out just how fast it's possible for a cable company to stream internet content directly to their set-top boxes.

    Possible, given many cable companies offer their broadband internet service in addition to TV programming. It doesn't take a genius to see it's just a matter of time before the companies go "Dude! Check it! We can do it!"

    Unfortunately for me, I see the day when the TV and internet are finally "married" into one entertainment package, but I'll admit I'm resistant to the joining. Why? Because it's just another damn excuse for inflated fees for content that should be free, but isn't.

    It's just like having "non domestic" channels on cable. We're paying for them in addition to the ads they display for the channel's "cost" of programming.

    Right now, the only thing I'm charged for accessing the internet is my cable fee. The website doesn't charge me to view content.

    This will change once TV and the internet are "married".

    Count on it.

     

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  2.  
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    some old guy, May 28th, 2008 @ 4:31am

    I already canceled my cable tv services

    TV is worse than an MMO. Cancel it today!

     

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  3.  
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    Allen Harkleroad, May 28th, 2008 @ 4:32am

    Cable Companies

    I imagine that prices are also set based on what the market/area will pay. I live in a small town in Georgia and we have full digital and all movie channels and pay less than 50 bucks a month (as opposed to 95.00 for the same on Satellite). Of course the cost of living here is way below the national average, so in essence the market I live in won't support higher cable prices. People down here won't jut won't pay it.

     

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  4.  
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    Paul S, May 28th, 2008 @ 5:51am

    I have TW and I am trying desperately to ween myself off of tv. I've cancelled all of the extras like digital movies and sports, their "highest" tier Internet was a joke (works great on their network, everything else though was still shit...).

    I think what is saving the cable companies is the MPAA. These idiots have a means to get into every household in practically the world, and they are fighting it because they want to control all aspects of the ad revenue. If it would just invest that money into research instead of suing every entrepreneur out there they could theoretically reach audiences not even thought of with TV on a regular basis. The internet is handing them an audience, and they are suing everybody for it. The entertainemnt industry worked decades for what the internet is done in a matter of months.

    Verizon's fios is finally in my area, but the TV segment is not. I don't know if I'm ready to fall for that, and I don't feel that is an alternative to cable. There is programming out there on p2p, hulu and even *yikes* iTunes. Not to mention we can always go to cbc/nbc and watch episodes after they are aired... There are already free opportunities out there, legal and illegal, we don't need to swap a subscription service with another subscription service. What is stopping producers from dumping the networks and starting their own website and collecting their own ad revenue? All we are going to need is some cooperation from the tele execs/producers to think outside the box.

    And then there is the problem of severely outdated communication infrastructure that cable has been using. We tax payers already paid to have it put in there, unfortunately the Adephia's, TWers, Comcasts have done their best to use the infrastructure without substantial updates. I hope we tax payers don't have to foot the bill again.

     

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  5.  
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    www.custompcmax.com, May 28th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    I just signed up for Direct TV, with HD and an HDDVR for less than the basic cable package offered by Comcast in my area. I use DSL for internet and have never had any issues with packet shaping. I get a constant 7mb download speed. Cable companies need to wake up before they become the last choice in tv and internet services. And good point to the writer, they are probably packet shaping to curb TV over IP (and movie and TV show torrents/dl).

     

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  6.  
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    JS, May 28th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    Cable

    Canceled cable. Networks are finally providing enough content online that I choose to stream from their repository ( so I don't have to manage my own DVR ). Since ABC will stream select shows in HD, I use my flatscreen as a third monitor. Albeit this solution is very limited in overall content - it really feels nice to give Comcast the high hard one. I 'do' pay for NetFlix however, their Instant Access feature is a great excuse for me to hold the couch down.

     

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  7.  
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    Quantity Surveyor Man, May 28th, 2008 @ 7:47am

    Re: Cable

    @JS: I couldn't agree more. I'm off cable for 6 months now and not missing it at all. Although the big NUTworks are finally getting the idea to stream their archives, cable is SO VERY not worth what they charge.

    Most of the so-called premium channels run out of ideas after midnight and show infomercials; non-premium stations just show infomercials any old time. I don't feel like paying good money just to be advertised at.

    Don't get me started on reality tv... The only thing real in that crap is the word reality in the description.

    Then they sometimes manage to get a good show and fiddle with it to death until it sucks and gets canceled. Or like the new Battlestar Galactica, they stretch it out over such a LONG period of time that its obvious they're milking the cash out of the cow and people lose their interest. In tv absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

     

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  8.  
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    Doc Rings, May 28th, 2008 @ 8:21am

    What the cable companies are doing is nickle-and-diming the consumer: if I want HD content, I have to upgrade to "digital" ($10), rent one HD box ($8), sign up for HD content ($10)... there's $28 bucks a month (over $330 a year) just to see HD shows, not including premium HD content. This is over and above the regular Standard Def (SD) content which is about $50 for channels 2-78. We are at about $85 with tax for cable with basic HD content. Then tack on $40 more for cable internet "bundled discount".

    It's my choice, but even though my new home was also pre-wired for satellite (and cable) to all rooms, I just don't want separate sat boxes in the bathroom!
    The home theater has another HD television, but only hooked up for XBOX360/HDDVD & PS3/BR movies. The TV picks up the HD channels over the regular cable wires (the little secret that the cable company won't tell you!). The master bedroom also has a small Vizio HD LCD which also picks up the QAM hi-def signal from the cable wire (but missing one of the local HD stations...)

    Overall, we drop about $125 a month on HD cable/box rental/internet/phone. I'm willing to pay it...so no complaints here.

    Cable internet runs at about 4MBPS, so pretty fast, too.

    Soooo... as long as the $125 a month doesn't creep up to $200 a month over the next couple years, I won't complain.

    I *will* complain about the crappy/tacky advertising on the Mediacom channel guide... what a pain in the @$$!

     

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  9.  
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    Emilio, May 28th, 2008 @ 9:10am

    Off of cable for two years in August. What do I miss? If I want to watch a game, it's down to the local sports bar. Between Netflix Watch Now, SciFi.com Full Episode Rewind, P2P, and my 3-Discs-Out Netflix plan itself, I'm essentially saturated with as much TV as I have time for.

    And you know, it's a weird weight that's lifted when you're not being continually bombarded with obnoxious Ads yelling at you in between snippets of 'news'...

     

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  10.  
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    MLS, May 28th, 2008 @ 9:28am

    Internet "TV"

    This article does seem to cut against the article posted yesterday suggesting that the internet is a "communication" medium and not a "broadcast" medium. Of course, I believe it is both, and that the latter at some point in the near future will make its presence felt much more strongly than is now the case.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Jake, May 28th, 2008 @ 10:04am

    I Call B.S.

    Cable has monopoly power. While this far-sighted optimism in this article is nice and refreshing, the cold reality is that I can only get high-speed internet from...wait for it...Comcast! So, replacing my cable with TVoIP ain't going to happen anytime soon because right now it's bundled together and if I were to ask for Internet only, Comcast will do one or two things. One, bandwidth throttle my VoIP. Two, raise the price of my Internet connection to make it uneconomic.
    The fact that we do not have serious, comprehensive competition in the cable market is a sad statement of our government's inability to manage competition to the consumer's benefit. Since when do mega-billion corporations need protection from consumers?

     

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  12.  
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    EnOne, May 28th, 2008 @ 1:35pm

    For sports content TV is still king

    It's nice to say that you will cut the cable cord. Where do you go for the Superbowl, Final Four, Orange Bowl, Indianapolis 500... You can torrent or hulu all you like but until there is a better way to distribute live sports and news there will always be a need for cable-like distribution.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Rania, Nov 7th, 2008 @ 11:54pm

    Cox is the worst

    Cox's Limited package is the worst-they have infomercials all night, often even in the evening on some channels. If I see one more more colon-cleansing show, I'll throw up.

    So I hate them, I will never upgrade because I'd rather die than give Cox one more $, and watch nothing on TV-I buy the monthly $15 membership at Hollywood Video, rent 3 DVD's/day as many times as I want each week, and just use my TV as a screen to watch the movies.

    The TV was useful for cosmic events, like the debates, and Obama's election celebration.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    karen, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 5:23am

    TV INternet and telephone package

    I hate Cablevision! Is it the only thing out there besides Direct TV which stinks also? It's expensive and they used to brag how good there were and didn't get bumped off and have those little cubie looking things that go across ones screen, and now I think they have to be hooked up to the internet also and are no longer fiber optic like I think they once were.
    FIOS Verizen has the 3 in 1 package and I can't get it in my area. It is cheaper and much better quality.
    Does anybody know of a better system, my zip is 06880?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Apple islate Tablet, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Unfortunately they own half of the networks so IPTV doesn't have a chance. Comcast is already trying to buy NBC so there goes Hulu.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    smartcards, Nov 23rd, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    Nothing new about this story. They've been hoseing people for years.

     

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