Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Cablevision Complains (Very Quietly) About News Corp.'s Web Blackout

Over the weekend, News Corp. briefly pulled down Fox shows from Cablevision customers’ Web browsers.

That’s an unprecedented move in the ongoing fight between cable providers, broadcasters and networks over programming fees. And the news was a big deal for the digerati and people contemplating the future of video.

But it doesn’t seem to have registered in the broader world, and you have to work hard to find any mention of the story in old-media news outlets. And even Cablevision, which uses any ammo it can in the PR fight against Fox and News Corp. (which also owns this site), hasn’t said much about it.

Here, for instance, is Cablevision’s newest message to its customers. If you fast forward to the 1:35 mark, you’ll find a two-sentence description of the Web blackout. But hard to believe many Cablevision customers will be sticking around to hear this one:

At the very least, blacking out part of the Web sounds scary. So why is Cablevision so (relatively) quiet on this?

Two theories, which are not mutually exclusive:

  • It’s not worth complaining about because this stuff doesn’t really resonate with consumers–at least, not in the way that losing access to NFL games and play-off baseball does. No one spent Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon in a bar because they couldn’t watch “Glee” on Hulu.
  • It’s not worth complaining about because Cablevision and News Corp. are actually on the same ideological page when it comes to this stuff. Neither side is really that happy about free TV shows on the Web. The only real difference the two sides have is about money: News Corp. wants to get more of it for its programming, while Cablevision wants to pay less.

On a related note: I still don’t understand why News Corp./Fox backed off so quickly on Saturday, once news of the blackout got out.

There’s no official reason, but there were mutterings about the technical difficulty of cutting off access to Cablevision TV subscribers while leaving Cablevision’s Internet-only subs alone. But hard to believe that News Corp. didn’t think that one through in advance. Same goes for any “optics”-related reason–the whole point of a move like this was to generate publicity, right?

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