Fox Extends Cablevision Blackout To Hulu… Temporarily

from the doesn't-make-much-sense dept

These days, fights between the TV networks and cable providers are so common that we stopped bothering to report on them. Basically, every few months, there’s a fight over how much money should be paid to carry the networks, and the two sides get angry, a public relations brawl ensues with threats of channels being removed (or, the channels are removed for some time). Eventually a price is agreed upon between the networks and the cable providers… and the consumers pay more. Great, huh? Of course, some have been suggesting that these fights could drive the push for people to ditch cable altogether, and switch to going purely online.

Except, in the latest such fight, between Fox and Cablevision in New York, things took an odd twist, with Fox not just pulling its network from Cablevision, but somehow getting Hulu to block access to Fox shows to anyone accessing the site from Cablevision. Apparently, after people started asking questions, Fox/News Corp. changed its mind and let Cablevision subscribers view Fox content on Hulu again.

However, this does raise a bunch of pretty serious questions. First of all, why did Hulu consent to this move? If Hulu were serious about its offering, it wouldn’t agree to take part in a silly fight like this, singling out people on a particular ISP. Once again, though, this shows how Hulu is way too beholden to the content providers. Second, while this is not really a “net neutrality” issue, it’s somewhat surprising that Fox/News Corp. would take a step like this that undoubtedly will be talked about in “net neutrality” terms. Any move that specifically restricts content to a certain class of users isn’t going to be looked upon kindly. Finally, in what world did News Corp. think this was a smart move? Did they actually think that users would be so upset that they’d asked Cablevision to raise their bills to bring Fox on Hulu back? Of course not. They’re simply going to blame Fox (and Hulu) for pulling their shows.

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Companies: cablevision, fox, hulu, news corp

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Comments on “Fox Extends Cablevision Blackout To Hulu… Temporarily”

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44 Comments
R. Miles (profile) says:

Techdirt's memory is failing.

First of all, why did Hulu consent to this move?
Did Techdirt forget this could be answered because it’s Hulu+ service was specifically designed not to piss off its cable competition?

Hulu. It should stick to skirts.

On topic: I’m not sure what leg the cable company has to stand on when it’s basically charging customers 3x for the transmissions one 1 wire.

All at the cost of “Bend over. This is going to hurt.”

Expected when there’s NO COMPETITION. Even by “cutting the cord”, the prices get jacked up because it’s a “singular” service.

Cracked just did a great write-up on FARTS: Forced ARTificial Scarcity.

The future is scary. Can I get off here?

Anonymous Coward says:

One more reason why we should be doing more to make them obsolete, people should start producing their own media and to that end I have a present for you guy’s.

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My amateur Techdirt Vignette(it is crappy).

And a challenge, can anybody do better?
I will try to do another one for the next week 🙂

Thanks to Techdirt for doing a great job and for letting me use their logo without permission to learn some design skills.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well yes it is actually – though clearly there are some novel details it’s still clearly comes under the remit of net neutrality.

Nope. It’s not. It’s got nothing to do with the infrastructure providers discriminating.

I’m wondering what is motivating the Masnick to say that ?

Perhaps it’s because I understand the issues and like to say what’s true, not what some marketing campaign wishes were true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Net neutrality isn’t simply a case of whether or not the infrastructure providers discriminating, it’s a question of neutrality or trying to make a neutral resource non-neutral.

For example if I drive my car to a business and they decide not to serve me because I didn’t drive their preferred route to reach their business that would obviously be an issue (assuming the technology existed to facilitate that discrimination).

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

*sigh*

There is no law that says you have to wear shoes.

How many signs have you seen on store windows that say they will not serve you if you aren’t wearing shoes? We should demand store neutrality! How dare they require me to wear only clothing they deem acceptable before they will take my hard earned money??

Oh, that’s right, because except for a few exceptions, businesses can refuse service to whomever they like for whatever reason they like. On or off the interwebs.

Andy (profile) says:

“…in what world did News Corp. think this was a smart move?”

Clearly in that world inhabited by the likes of the record labels, movie studios, TV companies and newspapers, in which they get paid piles of money over and over and over again and consumers smile happily as they fork out anything that hasn’t been extracted from their pockets in tax to these “content providers”.

shortcinema (user link) says:

Umm...research?

“Once again, though, this shows how Hulu is way too beholden to the content providers.”

You do know that Fox OWNS Hulu?

NBC Universal, News Corp., The Walt Disney Company, Providence Equity Partners … all owners of Hulu.

So, it is not so much that they are bowing down to the big wig media companies but more like they are doing what their boss tells them to do.

Actually it is more like, Fox was doing what they want to do because…Hulu is their company.

shortcinema (user link) says:

Re: Re: Umm...research?

The article asks,

“First of all, why did Hulu consent to this move?”

That is a moot question if Techdirt is already well aware of Hulu’s ownership.

IMHO, the discussion(as indicated in the link I posted) is misdirected.

When the supplier has owned the store from the beginning we, the customer, have really never been participating in a net neutral environment.

that_id (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Umm...research?

Not really certain that this is a net-nuetrality issue so much as an anti-trust issue.
If this is the model that the content providers who own Hulu are going to use this platform as, then the question has to be raised. If they are planning on collaborating with the other major networks, putting the advertising revenue under one company that works for all of them (Hulu), then only allowing their content to stream online thru that one outlet (, hence cutting out all other (cable company types) via the IP ‘airwaves’ which is arguably most definitely going to replace coax someday…) then they are seriously cutting out the only ‘competition’ for this market before it ever gets off the ground.
Hulu should be watched as a shell company offering it’s providers an avenue for price-fixing and anti-trust of it’s ad revenue VERY carefully in the future.

GC says:

Re: I canceled my cable TV last week

Ok, did you know that fox pulled the same thing with dish network a couple of months ago.
and as an are you kidding , who’s kidding who fox has even put on their “keep fox on tv” website that we all could go back to antennas on our roofs, which they really don’t want
cause then they don’t get the extra fees.

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Fox.com, too?

I heard that News Corp also blocked Cablevision customers from getting to Fox.com. Since Fox does offer updates on its programming via their website – perhaps for MLB coverage or for their regular broadcast shows, blocking Hulu wouldn’t be enough.

I’m a Cablevision subscriber and didn’t test it out over the weekend. If they blocked all of fox.com for Cablevision users, would that be a “net neutrality” issue?

And on a side note, I seriously wish we could get a-la-cart cable sometimes. I know there are good and bad points to it. But I’d seriously love a breakdown of my per channel costs. If Cablevision published that list, people could compare the before and after price of a Fox cost increases, they’d know where their money goes and could make a choice.

Jon B. says:

Re: Net Neutrality

No, if a particular content provider chooses to block people for whatever reason, that has absolutely nothing to do with net neutrality. Hulu.com and Fox.com can block whatever they want, just like I can block people on my websites.

If it was Cablevision that was doing the blocking, that might have a little to do with it, but that’s still a little of an abuse of the term.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality

Easy there, Purple Princess AC. It’s not net neutrality if it’s not an ISP giving priority to one bit of data over another. This is a company deciding (not very smartly) to block customers. Unless it’s one of the few things that you *can’t* block customer’s for (race, religion, etc) then it’s completely legal, on or off the internet.

Your favorite theater will tell you you’re not allowed to bring your Starbuck’s coffee inside. That’s their decision. So, Hulu says you can’t use their services from a Cablevision IP address. That’s also their decision. Granted, it’s a bad decision, but that’s the beauty of a free market.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Net Neutrality

Maybe I’m wrong, but humor me and read this. What you described above is *not* a net neutrality issue. It is a [bad] business decision. For the life of me I can’t understand why you insist otherwise, so please elaborate. I am certainly no expert, so if you can point out an error (besides “you clearly haven’t understood the issues yet”) please make your case.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Conspiracy Theory Alert!!!

“Any chance that this is all a show and the end result is the whole point of this anyway?”

NBCU holds a 32% stake in hulu. In 2 years Hulu will be worth about 2 billion dollars. Fox wants to see the Cable vision – NBCU merger happen with hulu being sold off. This was already called for by Senator Herb Kohl.

bob says:

It's Simple

Hulu is at the mercy of content creators, ergo they did as Fox asked.

I always tell the cable operator to fight to keep prices lower. the problem is that congress has mandated that cable must have the local channels on it’s cable lineup.

I would think that as most people have cable TV in my area that the local TV stations would want to stay on the cable providers service, as they are losing market share and their removal would decrease it even more. This would impact ad revenues.

But I download most of the TV shows that I watch now, from various file lockers. I do try to Tivo the greatest number that I can so they get the count to their numbers. Plus a downloaded show does not have that pesky digital block on it.

Chris says:

re:blocking internet subscribers

So did this also block people who only subscribed to Cablevision’s internet service, but not TV? That would seem to be borderline illegal, since these people are being punished for not even subscribing to an entirely different service. What would stop Fox from working with the ISPs to block people from Hulu who don’t subscribe to cable?

Also, were normal FOX channel shows blocked, since these are available free over the air?

PRMan (profile) says:

This is already happening

If I want to watch the local NHL team, I can’t watch it online. Even if I subscribe to the GameCenter package which is over $150 for the season, I can’t. It’s blocked so the local sports network gets their numbers.

Being a hockey fan, if I wanted to drop cable, I would have to find a very good proxy in another city, which is probably against the terms of service.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: This is already happening

“Being a hockey fan, if I wanted to drop cable, I would have to find a very good proxy in another city, which is probably against the terms of service.”

Meh. There are online streams of games as well, you know. I use them for the Blackhawks games that appear on Versus, since my Cable provider doesn’t have that channel….

Rekrul says:

I don’t watch sports, or news shows, so this wouldn’t affect me even if I had Cablevision. All the scripted shows are available for download within a half hour of airing and I just download the ones I want to watch.

I haven’t had access to pay channels in a couple years, but that hasn’t stopped me from watching shows like True Blood and Weeds. I also watch some British shows that aren’t even legally available in the US.

I look back on the time before I got broadband internet access as the dark ages of TV viewing. I still remember how disappointed I was when I missed recording the only airing of a low-rated show, which was canceled half-way through the first season. Today, I don’t even bother to turn on the TV, I just wait and download the shows later, or the next day. I’ll never miss another episode again. In fact, if I watch an episode and like it, I can go back and download the entire season.

Sure, the networks consider this “stealing”, but since I don’t have a Nielson box, what I watch doesn’t matter anyway.

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