Dish, Fox News Feud Again Illustrates How The Cable TV Industry Is Digging Its Own Grave
from the burning-your-own-house-down dept
If you have cable you’ve probably been exposed to one of the increasingly ugly retransmission fee disputes occurring between cable operators and broadcasters. They usually go something like this: as the two sides fail to hammer out new programming contracts, programmers pull their content from your cable lineup. Both sides then use media campaigns, on screen tickers, and websites all trying to convince you that the other guy is a nefarious, greedy villain. Frequently lost in the festivities is the fact that consumers get to pay the same amount of money for cable, even though they’re suddenly able to watch less content.
After a month or so of consumers being used as public relations pinatas the disputes end, confidential new contracts are signed, and the consumer is forgotten until they’re socked with a new, higher cable bill down the road. While it’s true broadcasters are responsible for the majority of programming increases, neither side is blameless, and both parties look for every opportunity to gouge their customers, making this a scenario where you truly wish both sides could lose.
The latest example of this dysfunction is the ongoing feud between Dish Network and Fox News, which resulted in Dish customers losing access to both Fox News Channel and Fox Business Channel roughly a week ago. As with other fights, both sides have loud websites trying to harness consumer outrage toward the other side. Also like similar fights, users get to keep paying the same amount of money despite getting less content. Unlike other fights where consumers may not actually miss what’s been taken away (as we saw with the DirecTV, Weather Channel fight), Fox News viewers really love their daily smorgasbord of “fair and balanced” dance numbers, and have been driving a significant amount of annoyance Dish’s direction:
“Since Dish dropped Fox News, Dish has focused on shifting blame instead of getting Fox News back on the air. But the facts speak for themselves ? Dish has blocked more than 10 channels in the last six months alone,? said the network statement. ?We continue to work on resolving this situation, but until Dish is responsive, we are unable to update you on when Fox News will be available.”
Consequently, Fox?s fan base has besieged Dish with calls and emails since the channel went dark. By Fox?s tally, about 180,000 complaint calls have been registered with the toll-free line Fox established for the Dish fight. At last count, 140,000-plus emails have been sent as well.”
Since Fox News has all the leverage here (Fox News continues to drive some of the only gains in cable right now) Dish will ultimately fold, offer up something close to what Fox originally wanted, and raise its rates sometime in the new year. But it’s no victory; it’s these endless programming increases that have many smaller cable companies dropping out of the TV business to just focus on broadband. It’s of course these same rates that have customers looking increasingly to less-expensive TV options like Netflix or Amazon.
It is astonishing that the cable and broadcast industry continues to bicker over the body of a dying cash cow as its house burns down around it. It requires a very particular skill set to take an industry with some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings in the country and find a way to make the consumer experience notably worse. At this point, carriage fee disputes are akin to a beverage retailer and the White Star Line bickering over Scotch prices at the Titanic bar.