Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Cable Guys Ask for Some Love

carey_cable_guyA year ago, when Time Warner Cable and Viacom sparred over renewal fees, Viacom (VIA) took out ads asking consumers for sympathy. Today, faced with the prospect of similar fights with the likes of News Corp. and Scripps (SSP), Time Warner Cable (TWC) is launching its own media salvo.

The cable provider is promoting a “Roll Over Or Get Tough” campaign, which asks consumers to…well, it doesn’t ask them to do anything, really. But there is a Web site where the company makes its case–its programming partners want more money, because that’s what they always want–and says that at some point, consumers will be able to “vote” on…something.

The thing is, the cable providers are at least half right: Cable programmers do want more money, because that’s what they always want. And now broadcasters like CBS (CBS) and News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, which traditionally haven’t been paid for their programming–at least not officially–want money, too.

But boy oh boy, is it going to be hard to gin up sympathy for the cable guys. When’s the last time you felt anything remotely warm and fuzzy toward your local operator, which may well have an effective monopoly in your neighborhood, and certainly acts like someone who has a monopoly?

And in any case, it’s hard to see what consumers are expected to do here: Left to their own devices, they might well elect to pay for just a handful of cable channels they want instead of subscribing to dozens of ones they never, ever, watch. That might well drive down cable bills, dramatically. Which is why programmers and providers don’t want that to happen.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik