3 Million Dish Customers May Miss Thanksgiving Football In Latest Example Of TV Industry Dysfunction
from the And-you-wonder-why-things-are-going-poorly dept
So for several years now consumers have faced a growing number of obnoxious retransmission blackouts, which occur when broadcasters and cable providers can’t agree on new programming contracts. Such feuds usually go something like this: a broadcaster will demand a fairly obnoxious price hike for the same content, to which the cable provider (already awash in complaints about higher rates) will balk. Instead of negotiating their differences like adults, this content is subsequently blacked out for paying customers, who never see refunds for the inconvenience.
Instead, customers are effectively used as public relations pinatas, as each side tries to get the customer angry at the other guy. After a few weeks of blacked out content, annoying on-screen tickers urging users to call in and complain, and public sniping, a new confidential deal is struck, and the higher rates are then passed on to the consumer. It’s a habitual dance of dysfunction that has continued despite the fact that the industry is losing more and more customers every year due to unsustainable rate hikes, horrible customer service, and the rise in streaming video competition.
This week, 3 million Dish customers lost access to 28 CBS-owned local stations in 18 markets because Dish Network and CBS executives couldn’t agree on a new contract without penalizing paying subscribers. This latest blackout comes just days before CBS is scheduled to air the latest Thanksgiving NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys, something CBS knows full well will help generate the maximum public backlash:
“CBS, in a statement, warned that ?Dish subscribers are in jeopardy of being without CBS over the Thanksgiving holiday, which would mean they would miss CBS Sports? NFL and SEC football coverage.”
CBS is set to broadcast the NFL matchup between the Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
?I am very upset. Why does the customer always have to suffer in these situations?? asked Jerry Horn, a Dish customer in Narrowsburg, N.Y. ?We pay the bills. ? Keep us connected during contract disputes!”
Dish, for its part, announced that it’s offering users a free over the air antenna so customers can watch the game. The company’s also offering users the chance to ditch all local broadcast channels in exchange for a $10 reduction in their monthly bills. And while Dish isn’t faultless in these feuds, they’re correct in noting that CBS seems to think it deserves more and more money despite fewer and fewer users actually tuning in to traditional broadcasts:
“On a recent investor conference call, CBS boasted about the rate increases promised to shareholders, going from $250 million in 2012 to a forecasted $2.5 billion by 2020. Those desired increases come as DISH customers are watching less CBS, with average viewership down 20 percent over the past 3 years.”
The FCC has occasionally flirted with the idea of banning cable companies and broadcasters from blacking out content during content disputes, but nothing much comes of it — as this kind of anti-consumer behavior is generally seen as “boys being boys,” and outside the purview of regulatory oversight. And the cable and broadcast industry is perpetually unwilling to change its behavior, only accelerating the slow but steady exodus of subscribers from bloated cable bundles — to either streaming alternatives like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix — or piracy. Stellar work all around, boys.