Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Gripe About the Cable Guys if You Want, but They're Having a Very Nice Quarter

If you live in certain pockets of the country, or on the Web, you know that the TV business is the Titanic, and that it’s just about to be smashed into pieces.

Could be!

But right now the industry is steaming merrily along. Today’s snapshot, via three earnings reports:

And those cheery results hold up when you dig into the reports, too: Discovery’s numbers are up because it’s getting more for both the ads and the subscriptions it sells–in the U.S., those numbers are up 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Viacom has the same story, plus “The Jersey Shore,” which remains astonishingly and distressingly popular.

(But don’t get me wrong: The boob tube has always been the boob tube. And, really, much boobier, in the old days of three (three!) networks. Here, via Bill Simmons, is a clip of Heather Locklear and Heather Thomas in a “Battle of the Network Stars” dunk tank. And at the bottom of this post, Telly Savalas and Gabe Kaplan and Farrah Fawcett. So great/bad.)

Okay, but those are programmers. What about Time Warner Cable, which merely owns pipe? Doing fine, too. The company did lose 66,000 video subscribers–about a half-percent of its 12.2 million base, so if you’re looking for evidence of cord-cutting, you can point to that.

But the cable industry’s consistent refrain is that any customers that are cutting the cord aren’t doing it to watch Web video on iTunes or Netflix or Hulu; they’re doing it because they don’t have any money for anything, period.

Here the numbers seem to bear out the argument: Time Warner’s video losses were outweighed by customers who added broadband and/or phone service to their packages, and the company ended up adding a total of 208,000 new subscription services for the quarter.

Next week we can check in with Comcast, which now has its hands in both the programming and pipe business. Those numbers should be instructive.

And now, because I can:


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work