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Time Warner vs. Fox: Here We Go Again

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I’ll say this for being a Time Warner Cable (s twc) subscriber — for the second year in a row, it’s brought a little extra drama to the holiday season.

Last New Year’s Eve, I was prepared to cut the cord on my cable because Time Warner nearly couldn’t work out a deal with Viacom (s via). And now this year Fox and Time Warner are in a transmission fee standoff counting down to Jan. 1, one that’s started much earlier and gotten much nastier, potentially leading to TWC dropping Fox channels from its service for some subscribers.

Per Paul Sweeting on GigaOM Pro (subscription only), only 3.9 million of TWC’s 14 million subscribers will be affected by the blackout, in areas where Fox-owned stations overlap with Time Warner. But according to Fox’s site, as a Los Angeles subscriber I’m yet again one of them.

Both sides have put together sites to lay out their positions — Time Warner borrowing phrases from truck commercials with, and Fox explaining what customers stand to lose at There’s no image quite as iconic as last year’s crying Dora the Explorer, but that’s because the range of programming at risk this time isn’t quite as broad.

If TWC and Fox fail to negotiate, I and others in my area stand to lose Fox, MyNetwork TV, Fox’s sports channels (some of which, like Fox Soccer Channel, aren’t included in my current plan), and FX. So how profoundly this affects you probably depends on how much you use Hulu and how big a sports nut you are; while fans of both American and international football will miss out on key games (including the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and lead-up games to the 2010 World Cup), they’ll still be able to catch Fox dramas and comedies online. While American Idol won’t be the same as it is when watched live, plenty of video is available on the official site.

The same doesn’t go for FX programming, however, as not all of it is available online — It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is on Hulu, for example, but Damages (which is produced by Sony Pictures Television) currently has only its first season up on Crackle.

Reading through both TWC and Fox’s sites as an affected subscriber, I have to say that I found myself much more convinced by Fox’s argument that the programming it offers is of equal value to, say, that of TNT, which receives a $1 transmission fee per subscriber (a channel I’m sure many people watch a whole lot less than Fox). The question is, though, whether or not TWC will pass the cost onto subscribers — and if we’re really ready to admit that the line between broadcasters and cablers, at least from the perception of viewers, has become much more fuzzy.

26 Responses to “Time Warner vs. Fox: Here We Go Again”

  1. If FOX, NBC, and CBS are broadcasting over the air for FREE. It makes no sense to charge TW for rebroadcasting their signal. TW is doing them a favor by rebroadcasting. Those channels earn money through COMMERCIALS. I’ll pay $1/month for FOX if they cut out all the commercials and give me on demand on all their shows.

    If TW drops FOX I would just use my HD entenna to watch FOX sports. BUT that would mean my FOX viewing would drop significantly because of the hassle.

    No cable user is going to choose FOX and those other crappy networks over all the programming cable offers.

  2. I am no fan of TimeWarner, but it makes no sense to me for broadcasters charging someone to carry a signal they broadcast (hence the name) for free, especially when it only serves to carry that signal to more of their customers. For this once, I am on TWC’s side, which is in and of itself quite a feat.

  3. ABC, CBS & NBC all plan on charging cable rebroadcasters for their service. CBS will likely bundle their local stations with other Viacom stations and the same will happen with the others. Really if you wanted to get the stations over the air wouldn’t you have an antenna? I haven’t seen a new one in use in years. With the greed evident on both sides I hope they come to a reasonable compensation so we the consumers don’t get hammered when the others follow suit.

  4. Seems to me Fox was a local rerun station a few years back. Now they air a few good shows & are now trying to force people to pay extra to view their over the airwaves network, an unprecidented stance. Fine, but, then, drop the commercials, if that’s what you want. Compete with HBO if you feel you’re on a par but don’t, under any circumstances, give me an ultimatum. Remember, Fox’s signal is broadcast over the airwaves, very easy to receive. Personally, I’m no fan of TWC but I’m not too impressed with Fox’s programming either. If we allow Fox to reach into our pockets, ABC, NBC CBS will surely follow & once they’re helping themselves it will be difficult to make them stop.

  5. Back in 2000, ABC/Disney threatened to pull Channel 7 from the Time Warner cable system in New York City unless they agreed to air the then-fledgling channel SoapNet. I don’t think anything ever got yanked, as an agreement was worked out at the last minute, and now TWC has SoapNet. I don’t know if anyone watches SoapNet, however. And, since soaps seem to be dying off, that channel now airs silly reality shows, like “Bank of Mom and Dad.”

  6. DallasArea

    @NLM: Yes, U-Verse has the same on demand service, but with many more selections. It’s also much faster when switching between channels, scrolling through the guide, and so on. If you choose to bundle, then you’ll discover that the Internet speeds offered by U-Verse are a little more than double those of cable, and the channel selection is greater. I don’t know the pricing difference (it’s probably $10-$20 in either direction per month), but having switched to U-Verse about 16 months ago, I’d never go back.

    • You are right I was living in Miami before moving to NYC and I had ATT U-Verse and it was GREAT!!! Much better then sucky cable. Now here in NYC I can only choice bettween RCN and Time Warner.

  7. I’ve had Bright House (TW’s subsidiary where I live in western FL) for a few years, and I HATE their service. Only, because of the storminess around here dishes are not great to have in appartments. Also, BH has a monopoly contract with nearly every appartment complex in the two county area I’m in, so unless I move into a house I cannot switch to Verizon as an alternative – just a dish. I might just be pushed to it, too!!!

    The service from BH has been horrendous over the past few months especially, and I’m sick and tired of it. If Fox goes, so do I! I don’t care what my husband says, we’ll get a stinking dish and mount it in our lanai!


    • Krystie, you bring up a good point about the monopoly contracts with the apartments. It makes me wonder if there is anything in those contracts that specify minimum channels, like all local stations, that would cause these contracts to become invalid. You may want to put some pressure on the apt office to check that as well.

      Personally, I do not have a choice of providers, as there is no one else covering my area and I do not point south for a satt., but I had to call the apt office to check on contract info. I will be calling the business offices of Verizon and AT&T to let them know that my complex is not contracted. Beyond that, I am already planning moving at the end of my lease, and a requirement of the new place will be, “MUST HAVE SOMETHING OTHER THAN TIME WARNER CABLE!

      • Krystie and BMo, cable providers aren’t considered monopolies; they are utilities like the electric and phone companies and operate under authority from the local municipality. I know of several apartment complexes in central Florida that use satellite as a media provider. If the majority of your neighbors are as sick of cable as you are maybe your landlord would consider switching the whole complex over to satellite. That’s not a short term solution as the cable contract would have to expire (if there is one) and the satellite company would probably want a ten year contract with the complex because the change over represents a significant investment in equipment for them.

        I can’t side with TWC/BH because they’ll raise rates and provide inadequate service whether they win or not. FOX doesn’t get my support either because they traded past rate hikes for deals to make cable companies carry other FOX channels (Fuel, Speed, FX, Foxnews) which weren’t yet popular. Now they’re trying to recoup those past opportunities in one shot. Also because in the past they promised to pull FOX off of Cox Cable in SE VA because they demanded a lower channel assignment and didn’t get it.

        I don’t recall ABC, CBS, or NBC threatening to pull programming as a negotiation tactic. You have to wonder what it is about FOX that puts them in this position.

  8. There is no company known more for terrible customer service then Time Warner Cable. It’s sad to me that they now expect us to support them after years of never supporting us. I can only hope Time Warner suffers more than anyone at the end of all of this.

  9. I sent the following to TW
    Regarding network pricing: I am a little annoyed that the Roll Over button on your “Get Tough or Roll Over” marketing site does not really work. It is my honest opinion…but you only want to hear from customers who agree with you? Roll over and pay already, this is a waste of time and money.

    If you must, please pay ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and CW $5 and pass the costs on to me. Then please use the money you spent on this campaign improving your customer service in LA and letting me unbundle the channels I never watch.

  10. This is a ridiculous example of old media companies still playing with the same handbook. We looked at it from the sports angle and pretty much if you need to watch a game you can without either of them.

  11. I’m in the Dallas area and I have a triple bundle with TimeWarner: internet, digital cable, and telephone. I will switch to ATT Universe in a heartbeat, even though I’ve been with TimeWarner for years. The only thing I might miss with TimeWarner is their OnDemand service, which is free for all the premium stations I subscribe to. But perhaps ATTU has the same kind of deal. Or perhaps I won’t care anyway.

  12. I ditched my cable, uh, 2 years ago? Between Hulu and Netflix, I certainly don’t miss it. But even without those, I wouldn’t go back — I’d just go back to reading, writing, and playing video games more. Right now the whole business probably needs to be rethought and rebuilt. (And I say this having friends who work in TV and film — I don’t want to see them lose their jobs, but if something is broken and not sustainable, we need to find a better way to do it.)

  13. If TWC raises my monthly subscription fee and/or drops these Fox channels I am going to cancel my service. Their infrastructure and current service is already often unreliable and sub-par in my opinion and even though I am far from a Rupert Murdoch or News Corp. fan, their position and argument is valid.