from the self-inflicted-mortal-wound dept
Fast forward a month or two, a new confidential deal is struck, and the rate hikes are immediately passed on to consumers. Yes, broadcasters are predominately at fault for demanding insane price hikes at a time when consumers are cutting the cord. But cable providers aren't faultless either. They quite frequently are broadcasters themselves (as with regional sports networks or Comcast NBC Universal), and when they aren't -- they're usually just as busy tacking on their own wide assortment of misleading fees and hardware charges.
In short, everybody in the chain is violently milking a dying cash cow, oblivious to the actual needs of the consumer.
Earlier this month Dish Network balked at a price hike demand from Tribune Broadcasting, resulting in Tribune pulling Dish customer access to 42 local Tribune channels in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia. That resulted in Tribune creating a salty new website accusing Dish of being a "regulatory profiteer" and urging Dish customers to switch to another pay TV provider -- pretty standard for these kinds of inane disputes. The website also makes some not-particularly-creative use of the Dish brand name, accusing the satellite TV provider of being "dishgusting" and "dishturbing":now sued Tribune Broadcasting (pdf), claiming that the website and advertisements that publicize the feud are causing serious harm to Dish:
"Tribune’s publication of the misleading and deceptive statements on its channels and these websites causes actual harm to DISH. Among other things, DISH’s subscribers flood DISH’s customer service lines with questions about the Tribune messages, some subscribers cancel their DISH subscriptions, and DISH’s goodwill as a reliable service provider is eroded. Tribune is therefore deliberately and purposefully interfering with DISH’s contracts with its subscribers as well as with DISH’s prospective economic advantage, both through current subscribers who terminate their agreement with DISH and through prospective subscribers who elect not to sign up for DISH services."To Dish's credit, they're one of the only pay TV providers standing up to broadcast rate hikes at a time when customers increasingly have made it clear they want cheaper, more flexible channel lineups. Also to their credit, Dish is one of the only companies with the guts to actively offer a product that makes this happen (Sling TV), despite the obvious risk of cannibalizing its own, more profitable legacy TV customer base. But Dish has been involved now in fifteen blackouts of this type in the last three years, and it's not doing much to slow down broadcaster rate hike demands.
And while broadcasters do deserve the lion's share of blame for these fights, the idea that anybody in the broadcaster cable TV chain actually cares about the customer is a stretch. No matter which side "wins" in these ugly public feuds, the consumer always loses. They lose access to content they pay for, never see refunds, and generally see rate hikes no matter what the final contract looks like. Cable TV providers then tack on some misleading below-the-line fees of their own (like the "broadcast TV" fee, or usage caps if they also offer broadband) to ensure they're not the ones footing the bill.
Ultimately, these fights only illustrate how the legacy pay TV sector is utterly tone deaf to consumer desire despite years of warnings on the wind. Cable TV executives see the giant meteor (cord cutting, streaming TV competition) coming, but they just think the best possible response to the looming cataclysm is a one-two punch of denial and speeding up the rate at which they gouge paying customers. These are dinosaurs drinking cocktails ahead of the disruption apocalypse.