In addition to forcing subscribers to pay for hundreds of channels they never watch and don’t want, the current cable and satellite regime has other unfair effects. Because a few major conglomerates control pay TV, they are able to squeeze out independent networks – as Hallmark Channel executive Bill Abbott recently explained.
Bill Abbott is the CEO of Crown Media, a division of Hallmark Cards which operates the Hallmark Channel and the Hallmark Movie Channel. In a recent interview, Mr. Abbott discussed the fact that Hallmark’s networks are independent, and not under control of one of the major entertainment industry giants.
Such media conglomerates include News Corporation (owners of the Fox and MyNetworkTV broadcast channels, cable channels FX, National Geographic Channel, BabyTV, SPEED Network, Fox News, Fox Movies, and various Fox sports networks, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, HarperCollins Books, The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines worldwide); Disney (ABC broadcast network, ABC Family, ESPN Disney Channel, Disney XD, and affiliated cable networks, Radio Disney, Hyperion Books, the Disney, Pixar, and Lucasfilm movie studios, Marvel Comics, The Muppets, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney resorts and cruise lines, and, in partnership with Hearst Corporation, the A&E, Biography, Lifetime, and History cable channels); National Amusements (CBS and CW broadcast networks, the MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., CMT, TV Land, BET, Comedy Central, Spike, Logo, and Showtime cable networks, Paramount and Republic movie studios, National Amusements theater chain, CBS Radio, Simon and Shuster publishing; TV Guide, the Neopets gaming website, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant chain, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles); and Comcast-NBCUniversal (NBC broadcast network, USA, SyFy, E! CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Style, Telemundo, and the Weather Channel cable networks; Universal movie studios and amusement parks; dozens of sports arenas around the nation, as well as the Comcast cable company, the largest provider of cable, phone, and Internet in the nation).
As a result of all this cross-ownership, these conglomerates hold vast advantages. One standard tactic is telling cable companies and customers, “If you want Disney Channel [for example], you’ve got to pay for ESPN and ABC Family, too.” Another is flooding cable companies with so many of their own channels – each of the conglomerates named also own many smaller and less desirable networks which were not listed above – that smaller independents, which are not owned by the conglomerates, get squeezed out.
Up against the unbelievably vast financial, political, and entertainment clout of the entertainment industry giants, it is easy to see how Hallmark is in an unfair situation, as Mr. Abbott notes: “The distribution equation is more challenging, because we don’t have the leverage of a broadcast network or a sports property that is a must-have. The Cable Act of 1992 unfortunately has created an environment where broadcast networks [and] cable assets residing under the same roof are granted added leverage…That is the major drawback to being an independent: those government regulations that put us, as independent programmers, at a distinct disadvantage.”
This is yet another reason why Cable Choice is important: independent networks like Hallmark, UP (formerly GMC), INSP, and others – most of whom offer family-friendly programming which the conglomerates do not – are at risk of being shoved aside by networks owned by the big conglomerates, or dropped by cable companies under pressure from those same conglomerates. But with Cable Choice, no network would have an unfair advantage based on who owns them; the quality and popularity of their programming would be the only things that matter. Isn’t it time the American people had that choice?