The mega-conglomerates that run the entertainment industry love to claim that “we’re just giving people what they want.” But in a battle over cable fees, nearly a million subscribers have demonstrated they don’t miss networks like MTV.
According to The Wall Street Journal, for the last two months nearly a million cable households in middle America have been unable to watch the cable channels provided by Viacom, the corporate owner of MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike, VH1, TV Land, and Logo….and the vast majority of them don’t care.
At issue are the fees demanded by Viacom for its networks. When customers pay their monthly cable bill, each individual network gets a piece of the payment. Like other conglomerates (Comcast-NBCUniversal, Disney-ABC, and Fox, each of which own a dozen or more cable and broadcast networks), Viacom has demanded more money for each of their networks.
This has put smaller cable companies in an impossible position. When subscribers see their cable bills go up, they don’t complain to the conglomerates which are demanding more money; they complain to their local cable provider. Up until now, cable companies have had no choice but to pass the increased costs onto customers; but a group of 60 or so small cable operators finally decided to fight back, essentially telling Viacom, “We won’t pay your extortion. We won’t increase our customers’ bills.”
The result is that Viacom has “blacked out” all of its cable channels to those companies. This is a standard bullying tactic by the big conglomerates; last August, CBS (which is owned by the same company which owns Viacom) briefly “blacked out” Time Warner Cable from receiving its programming unless the cable company forced its customers to pay more.
But unlike Time Warner Cable, the 60-some small cable companies in America’s heartland refuse to knuckle under to Viacom’s extortionate demands. Because smaller, local cable operators are already forced to pay more per subscriber than big companies like Comcast, the cable companies calculated that Viacom’s non-stop demand for price increases would mean that each customer’s cable bill would go up 100% over the next five years. The smaller companies refused to charge more, and Viacom pulled its channels from their companies.
The result is that small towns across the U.S. haven’t been able to watch Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, or other Viacom networks. The cable companies were prepared to lose up to 10% of their customers over the change; but in fact, they’ve lost less than 2%, with some customers stating they didn’t even notice the channels were missing. The cable companies have replaced Viacom’s networks with others, some of which are proving to be even more popular with subscribers than Viacom’s offerings were.
This serves as proof of what the PTC has long said: without their extortionate, fraudulent “bundling” scheme, by which they force every consumer to buy dozens of channels they don’t want and never watch, the entertainment cartel would lose massive amounts of money if they actually offered their viewers real choice. But that choice is a right; no one should have to pay for something they never use and don’t want.
It is laudable that America’s small, local cable companies for standing up for their customers, and opposing Viacom’s extortion. We hope that other cable companies follow suit. Maybe if Viacom learns just how many people don’t care about watching MTV, they will be more willing to offer customers choice.
They may even try putting on shows people actually want to watch.
To learn what YOU can do to help fight for Cable Choice, click here.