We've already noted how the retransmission fee disputes between cable companies and broadcasters have grown significantly more annoying over the last few years
, as broadcasters seek out higher and higher rates to prop up the unsustainable current TV ecosystem. These fights have become a master class in how to piss off your (already quite annoyed
) customer base during rate negotiations, with paying TV customers being bombarded with ads, TV tickers, and a bevy of lame websites
by both sides trying to direct consumer outrage toward the other guy
. Customers who happen to get broadband from a TV company engaged in one of these fights have also recently started to enjoy having access to online content blocked
, even if they subscribe to TV services through another operator.
While broadcasters (especially sports programmers) own the lion's share of the blame for the soaring rates, neither side is blameless. Cable operators will blame broadcasters with one breath, and in the very next hit consumers with their own assortment of higher cable modem rental fees, more expensive DVR and set top rental charges, or strange and obnoxious new below the line fees
. Once both sides spend a few months publicly sniping at one another and bombarding consumers with artificial concern for soaring prices, they'll strike a confidential agreement and quite happily raise consumer rates in unison. Cable TV customers get to pay for the honor of the entire experience.
AMC has recently ramped up their use of this tactic, blasting consumers with tickers and ads not only after contract negotiations break down, but months before current contracts expire. AMC repeatedly warned viewers of the latest "The Walking Dead" episode that DirecTV wasn't bowing quite deeply enough during efforts to renew a contract expiring at year's end, and therefore consumers might lose access to their favorite content
During the Nov. 2 premiere episode of The Walking Dead, AMC began alerting DirecTV subscribers via commercials and graphic snipes that their ability to watch cable's top series, and TV's leader among persons 18 to 49, could be compromised..."DirecTV has not engaged in meaningful negotiations with us, which leaves us to doubt whether a timely renewal is possible," (a statement declares).
Because bothering you at home during your favorite shows isn't enough, Viacom recently got the great idea to take their feud with small cable operator Suddenlink on the road, hiring actors dressed up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to help educate kids and parents
during a Charleston-area homecoming celebration:
Viacom has enlisted Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to help reunite Suddenlink customers with some of the characters they might be missing since losing access to Viacom channels in early October. The turtles were scheduled to make an appearance at Capital High School’s homecoming game Friday night at University of Charleston Stadium. The move, Viacom spokesman Mark Jafar said, is intended to let area customers know the company is still thinking of them.
Because nothing quite says, "I'm thinking about you," like costumed turtles trying to offload blame for your own obnoxious prices hikes, right?
Of course this attempt to generate consumer outrage on the part of broadcasters only works if consumers actually miss your content, something that's only going to happen less as alternatives to cable expand. When DirecTV customers recently lost access to The Weather Channel during a contract dispute, it turned out that customers really didn't miss the channel all that much
because the channel's quality had eroded substantially and many users had already shifted to getting their weather online. It's also worth noting that some small and mid-sized cable operators, unable to afford these endless rate hikess, are no longer offering cable TV
and simply selling broadband.
Cable company executives spend a lot of time publicly wondering why younger cord cutters can't seem to see the incredible value in traditional cable television, oblivious to the fact that annoying paying customers goes a long way to explaining it. These are the same companies and executives who in a few years will stare dumbly at their shoes wondering how they failed to keep pace with evolution in Internet-based television, and these increasingly annoying and loud contract disputes are the last, sad gasps of a dying dinosaur.