from the you-really-don't-want-to-buy-what-I'm-selling dept
In Dish's case, customers have lost access to content but they're still paying the same rates. Yet speaking this week on the company's earnings call, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen told customers eager to watch election coverage that not only may they never get CNN back, they really shouldn't miss it because nobody watches cable news these days anyway:
"When we take something down we’re prepared to leave it down forever. Things like CNN are not quite the product that they used to be. You can imagine: CNN down on election night would have been a disaster 15 or 20 years ago. Now there are plenty of other places for people to get news. In fact a lot of people get news not from TV but from their devices."While that might be true (given that CNN, like most cable news, is now more unintentional cultural satire than news), it's odd to hear a cable exec telling people they don't need to buy what he's selling, especially since the majority of cable channel lineup bundles are increasingly bloated with similarly-inane content. Ergen added that while the company does listen to customers, they're not going to here, since it's nice that Dish will save a buck:
"If we’re not going to be in a relationship with Turner then we would not have to raise our prices next year. And that would be slightly cash positive for us from a cash flow perspective. Yes, we listen to customers. But we would save a big, big, big check from a cash flow perspective. And for those folks who don’t care about news and cartoons, we have other news and cartoon shows."Again, that's probably not particularly comforting to Dish customers who are getting less content yet paying the same amount of money to Dish.
Some of this is just traditional Charlie Ergen negotiations bluster, given it's hard to sell TV content if you tell all of the people making it to go to hell. Unlike many cable execs, Dish and Ergen do see the cord cutting writing on the wall, and are planning to launch a live Internet video service sometime before the end of the year. However, that service again relies on the good graces of the broadcasters if it's going to survive; the same broadcasters who've been waging legal war against any disruptive technology that could possibly topple the traditional cable cash cow, whether it's Dish's automatic ad-skipping DVR or Aereo. Turner says they were originally on board with the project, but after the last month's feuding says they're reconsidering the green light.
Even if it's a little ham-fisted, Ergen's trying to make the point that the current TV ecosystem and these often bi-annual rate hikes simply aren't sustainable. It's the same point being made by small and mid-sized cable companies that have started to leave the cable business entirely because they can't afford to participate, and it's same point being made by cord-cutters who are tired of paying an arm and a leg for an ocean of crap content.