Mediacom is a cable company which primarily serves mid-sized regions in the Midwest and South, with a presence in 22 states. Like many other smaller cable companies, it is forced by gigantic media mega-conglomerates like Comcast-NBCUniversal, Fox, Disney/ABC/ESPN, and Viacom (owner of MTV and Comedy Central) to pay huge prices for the right to distribute cable channels – costs which are inevitably passed on to customers. But cable companies which serve big cities, like New York and Los Angeles, receive huge discounts from the conglomerates on the price of their programming.
According to Broadcasting & Cable, this week Mediacom filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission, protesting the current unfair structure and demanding a more level playing field. Mediacom said the relationship between huge entertainment conglomerates and smaller, local cable companies is broken, and that due to lack of regulation and oversight by Washington, the current telecommunications marketplace is “anti-competitive and anti-consumer.”
Noting that six mega-conglomerates (including those listed above) hold hundreds of local cable companies and hundreds of millions of consumers hostage, Mediacom demanded the FCC require the conglomerates to provide an a la carte option the most expensive channels (so that, for example, people who never watch sports aren’t forced to pay $70 a year for ESPN). It also asked that cable companies be allowed to unbundle channels for their consumers, so that customers can purchase only those channels they want, or at least a smaller, less expensive bundle of channels.
With the mega-conglomerates poised to grow even larger – Comcast-NBCUniversal is buying out Time Warner Cable, thus merging the largest and second-largest cable companies AND controlling NBC’s broadcast and cable channels – smaller cable companies, and their customers in middle America, will be at an increasing disadvantage.