Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Another Cable Company Shows You How to Live Without Cable

Cablevision would very much like its three million cable TV subscribers to keep subscribing. But while it fights with News Corp.’s Fox over programming fees, it’s going to show its customers how to live without cable, if they must.

Here’s the email that Cablevision sent to its customer base last night, explaining how they can get legal streams of the World Series delivered to their homes on the Web, via MLB.com. It’s a fancier version of the message I delivered two weeks ago, except that this time Cablevision is promising to pick up the $10 fee, too:

Is anyone going to take Cablevision up on the offer? A note from RBC Capital Markets this morning guesses that perhaps 150,000 subscribers may go for it, which would generate a $1.5 million bill for Jim Dolan and company. I’ve asked Cablevision if it can provide any numbers for the offer, which kicked off last night before Game 1 of the Series. UPDATE: “Thousands” of customers have sent in receipts for reimbursement, says a Cablevision rep.

Of course, the real risk for Cablevision isn’t the one-time payout it may have to fork over. It’s that increasing numbers of consumers learn to live without cable and get their video fix over the Web.

But that’s a risk for Fox, too: Like all of the broadcast networks, it wants the cable guys to start paying it for its programming, and if people start cord-cutting in real numbers, then the cable guys won’t have much to hand over.

Which is why it’s surprising that this rights-fee fight has lasted as long as it has–there’s no ideological difference between the two sides here, only a money gap. But the longer it remains open, the more both sides have to lose. (Disclosure: News Corp. also owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site).


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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