from the consumers-lose dept
For years cable TV has been plagued by retrans feuds and carriage disputes that routinely end with users losing access to TV programming they pay for. Basically, broadcasters will demand a rate hike in new content negotiations, the cable TV provider will balk, and then each side blames the other for failing to strike a new agreement on time like reasonable adults. That repeatedly results in content being blacked out for months, without consumers ever getting a refund. After a few months, the two sides strike a new confidential deal, your bill goes up, and nobody much cares how that impacts the end user. Rinse, wash, repeat.
And while the shift to streaming TV has improved a lot about cable TV in general, these annoying feuds have remained. The latest case in point: Comcast NBC Universal is demanding more money from Google for the 14+ channels currently on the company’s YouTube TV live streaming platform. Google appears to be balking, resulting in NBC running a bunch of annoying banners on its channels warning about a looming blackout, and directing people to this website blaming Google for not wanting to pay more money for the same content:
In a blog post, Google notes that negotiations are ongoing, but suggests that Comcast isn’t being reasonable in negotiations:
“Our ask is that NBCU treats YouTube TV like any other TV provider. In other words, for the duration of our agreement, YouTube TV seeks the same rates that services of a similar size get from NBCU so we can continue offering YouTube TV to members at a competitive and fair price.”
As far as annoying corporate feuds go, this one isn’t all that bad. Google says it will reduce the cost of its overall service by $10 should users lose access to NBC content after September 30 (traditionally, cable providers haven’t been willing to lower their rates at all). Still, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of these kinds of feuds as telecoms, cable TV companies, app makers, “big tech,” and even hardware vendors like Roku all attempt to battle for not only viewership eyeballs, but access to user data collection revenues.
The problem is, consumers shouldn’t be the ones paying the price for two companies’ failure to negotiate new contracts like adults. For a moment there it looked like the FCC might update its rules to force companies to negotiate in good faith (and more importantly penalize companies that take out out their negotiating incompetence on paying subscribers) but as a movement it generally went nowhere. U.S. regulators genuinely view these feuds as just “boys being boys,” and routinely don’t care whether it results in paying subscribers losing access to content they have, in many cases, already paid for.