Charter Communications Refuses To Air Antenna Manufacturer's Ad
from the the-'plug-ears-and-chant-loudly'-business-model dept
There's a lot of talk about "cord cutting" going around. On one hand, the techier side of the spectrum feels this is the new normal and that it spells out the eventual demise of cable companies. On the other hand, cable companies are stating loudly that this isn't happening and displaying chart after chart of flat (or slightly declining) subscriber counts as evidence that things are still "pretty OK." In between, you have the public, which is blessed with more options for content consumption than ever before. Sure, many of them still have a cable line running to the house, but it's debatable how much of that piped-in content is being consumed via the cable box. After all, most cable providers are also ISPs, which brings content into the home via services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Cable and satellite companies have long fought against having to inform its current (and potential) customers that their services aren't needed to receive free, over-the-air TV. This is why many networks are battling antenna manufacturer Aero in court -- to protect the carriage fees they receive from cable companies. If the cable companies lose subscribers, they lose these fees. Cable companies aren't happy about these antenna manufacturers either, and are pushing back by limiting the reach of their advertising. Vidiot sends in this GigaOM story about Antennas Direct and its run-in with Charter Communications.
You don’t need a cable subscription to watch ABC, CBS or NBC – but don’t expect to learn about alternatives if you’re a Charter customer. Over-the-air antenna maker Antennas Direct recently wanted to buy some air time on Charter‘s cable channels to explain how TV viewers can access these channels without a pay TV subscription.
“We thought it was a fairly benign message,” Antennas Direct President Richard Schneider told me Thursday. Charter disagreed – and rejected the spot for competitive reasons.
While Antennas Direct may compete somewhat with Charter's core business, its purchasers are limited to free, over-the-air channels. Charter offers many channels (along with phone and internet services) unavailable over the air, along with premium offerings. Someone knocking a handful of channels out of the hundreds available shouldn't be a concern -- unless cord cutting is more a threat than these companies want to admit. Charter's refusal to air this aid is an implicit admission that cord cutting is more of a problem than it's willing to state in public. As Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct, points out in a blog post at the company's site: “When a multi-million dollar antenna company can strike fear into the heart of a 7 billion dollar giant, you know your message has merit.”
Along with giving people a viable reason to ditch their cable subscriptions, these antennas offer something else the cablecos can't: uncompressed HD. Ever-expanding channel lineups have run headlong into bandwidth limits, forcing cable companies to compress their HD offerings. Not that you'd know it from cable company advertisting or their channel lineups, which list dozens of HD channels, most of which are delivered in less-than-true-HD form with compression that can run anywhere from 1-40%.
So, while there's nothing wrong with Charter's actions from a business perspective, blocking a few "competitor's" ads isn't going to save it for long. After all, more and more people are getting their advertising (and other information) from a variety of screens, rather than relying on TV broadcasts. This ad shutdown does nothing for Charter and gives Antennas Direct a huge boost in publicity. Maybe it would have been smarter to just let these ads run in their "normal" environment, commercial breaks, where the message would have become background noise for fridge runs and bathroom breaks. Instead, Charter has allowed Antennas Direct to walk away with the win and spead its message to savvy internet users, most of who are more than happy to ditch services they find incomplete, limiting or unnecessarily expensive.