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Monday, February 6, 2017

Three Jeers for Cablevision (and how Cablevision is damaging CBS)



JEER NUMBER ONE

Cablevision has supplied my home and business with TV, telephone and internet service in NY and CT since the mid-1970s. For most of that time I've been a satisfied customer, except for those times—like right now—when I've been an extremely pissed off customer.

When I've been pissed off it was not because of bad service, but because of STUPIDITY.

When I lived in NY I had 14 TV sets. Eight of them were connected to cable boxes which had monthly fees. Six of them were connected directly to the cable, and were not charged for.

Cablevision insisted that all TVs that were connected to its service—even those producing no revenue—had to be included in its records. They also had to appear on the monthly bills, even if nothing had to be paid.

The format for the monthly bill allowed just ten items, so Cablevision had to separate my TVs into two accounts. Each month the company sent one bill that included the eight cable boxes, plus another bill—with a different account number, different envelope and additional postage—for the six TVs that had no cable boxes and no monthly charges.


The second bill was based on monthly charges of six times nothing, with a total due of zero dollars and zero cents.

After several months, Cablevision's computer noticed that no payments were received to pay the zero balance, and turned the account over to a collection agency.

The collection agency's computer then started to threaten me, detailing the dire consequences if the payment of zero dollars and zero cents was not made promptly. Phone calls to the agency and Cablevision were fruitless. The customer service people at both companies blamed the computers, and had no way to intervene.

Ultimately I  presented a check to Cablevision for $0.00, and the account was credited for the "payment," and everything was fine... for a few months. Then the collection campaign began again.

When I moved from NT to CT in 2001 (still within Cablevision territory), connection of my new service was delayed because of nonpayment of my previous zero balance.



JEER NUMBER TWO 

I just endured my third consecutive weekend without Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes,

Recently there has been no NCIS, Bull, Criminal Minds or Elementary in my home. My own good wife doesn't get the see The Good Wife. 


I am caught in a disruptive, destructive despicable, infantile dispute between TV service provider Cablevision (recently bought by European media behemoth Altice) and Meredith Corporation. Meredith, now in its second century of operation, publishes such magazines as Better Homes & Gardens and owns or operates multiple television stations, including CBS affiliate WFSB in Hartford, CT.

(below) Meredith says I am a pawn.

(below) Cablevision says I am a hostage.

I live in Milford CT, about 50 miles from Hartford. Until recently I could choose among more than 800 TV channels—including two from NBC, two from ABC and two from CBS.

last month I lost both of my CBS channels—WFSB as well as WCBS from New York City. The same thing happened three years ago.
No thanks.
WFSB tells unhappy viewers: "You can watch us for free over the air with an antenna, or you may choose to subscribe to DirecTV (1-800-DIRECTV), Dish Network (1-888-825-2557) or AT&T U-verse (1-877-597-9067) which all carry WFSB and the other local television stations in our market."
  • No thanks. I am not going to change TV service providers because of a short-term problem. (If I switch to AT&T or Dish, they could have a blackout in the future.) I tried two over-the-air antennas and neither one will receive CBS programming. WFSB also points out that I can watch some CBS programming on my PC. Watching television programs on a 27-inch PC monitor while sitting on a desk chair is not like watching a 65-inch TV while lying on a couch.
So-called "blackouts" are an unfortunately common part of cable TV negotiating. The loss of programming can last for hours or months. Viewers and advertisers are the victims. Even networks and local stations get hurt.
  • In 2013 more than three million Time Warner Cable viewers in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and other parts of the country lost access to CBS shows for a month.
  • In 2010, Cablevision stopped providing Fox programming to 3 million customers for two weeks.
  • Also in 2010, HGTV and the Food Network were briefly lost to AT&T U-verse subscribers because of a dispute between Scripps Networks and AT&T. AT&T also stopped providing the Hallmark Channel for months.
These problems are symptoms of a fundamental clash of interests.
  • Providers of programming want to maximize the income earned by their expensive productions.
  • Cable TV companies want to pay as little as possible to the program providers, both to maintain profitability and to avoid rate increases in a fragile economy where viewers can choose from a growing number of competing entertainment and information sources.
In an email, Meredith's VP for Corporate Communications and Government Relations Art Slusark told me, "We value your viewership and we are working hard to resolve this matter, but Cablevision refuses to negotiate, even though other cable companies have agreed to compensate WFSB."

I’m not sure that local channels should be paid by cable companies. Can’t WFSB charge more for advertising because of the extra audience the cablecos deliver? Maybe WFSB should pay Cablevision, or at least provide its program feed for free.


Throughout this annoying ordeal, one issue has been strangely ignored by Meredith, Cablevision, the media covering the situation and politicians: How can WFSB, a little channel in Hartford, stop me from watching WCBS, a giant channel based in New York City? Meredith does not own WCBS!
 

During the 2014 blackout U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy urged Cablevision and Meredith to end the blackout. They wrote that they “believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families . . . .  The senators also want Cablevision to “commit to refund upon request any Litchfield or New Haven County subscribers who are no longer getting what they signed up for, a portion of their monthly bill commensurate with WFSB’s value.”

Senators, what about WCBS's value? WCBS is worth a lot to me. WFSB is worth nothing to me. It is one of hundreds of channels that I pay for and could watch—but never watch.

WFSB says it "is simply requesting that Cablevision acknowledge that our WFSB is a valuable source of programming for all of Cablevision's Connecticut customers, even those customers that also receive an out-of-state CBS station." Again, WFSB is worth nothing to me.

WFSB also says, "WFSB's vital local news, emergency information, and top-rated CBS sports and entertainment programming are important to Optimum customers." BULLSHIT! WFSB is absolutely worthless to me.

WFSB also says, "Our signals always have been and always will be free over-the-air." BULLSHIT. I can't receive WFSB over-the-air at my home.
 
On
Sept. 5, 2012 Cablevision and CBS Corporation announced the renewal of their content carriage agreements covering retransmission consent for CBS Owned Stations. [including WCBS!] “Cablevision is a cornerstone partner in our flagship market.  By recognizing the value of our content, this agreement assures the audiences we share with Cablevision will continue to be able to enjoy programming . . . . ” said Martin Franks, Executive Vice President for Planning, Policy and Government Relations, CBS Corporation.

“This broad agreement will ensure that Cablevision customers will continue to have access to the CBS programming they already enjoy, across a range of networks, as well as new services Cablevision will launch in the coming months, including Showtime Anytime and CBS prime time shows on demand,” said Mac Budill, Cablevision’s executive vice president of programming.

A similar agreement was announced on 8/25/15:


Well, the "multi-year" agreement did not last two years!
I want my CBS.


JEER NUMBER THREE

I am trying to reduce my monthly $133.31 Cablevision TV bill.

It includes a $4.97 "Sports TV surcharge."

I never watch sports. It would take at least $100 and massive amounts of junk food and harmful beverages to entice me to watch football or baseball.

Why should I be forced to pay for something I never use?

This is not like paying taxes for schools and roads that benefit the entire community—not just drivers and school children.

Didn't we fight a war over taxation without representation?

Not only do I never watch sports, I never watch 90% of the approximately 800 channels available in my home.

I want à la carte pricing to allow me to pay for only what I want to watch.

Screw you, Cablevision—and your new European owner, Altice.


HOW CABLEVISION HURTS THE CBS NETWORK

CBS is the most popular network for prime-time programming. Probably 80% of the TV programs I watch are CBS programs. The rest are a mix of NBC, ABC, HBO, Amazon, CNN, MSNBC, History, Netflix, Velocity, HGTV and a few others. 

Lester and Scott are both welcome in my home. 
 I have no idea who does the ABC news.




For evening news I've been addicted to CBS since the days of Walter Cronkite. During the blackout I've been watching Lester Holt on NBC. He's just fine—and there's a good chance that I may never bother with Scott Pelley again. I've sampled other NBC programming, too. I watched the Today show for the first time in about 50 years. Gave Garroway and J. Fredd Muggs are gone and Al Roker has a beard.

For late-night comedy I usually watch Stephen Colbert. The blackout caused me to check on the two Jimmies. Kimmel and Fallon are fine and I will not likely be an exclusive watcher of CBS's Colbert again.

There's no better way to get viewers to sample non-CBS programming than to make CBS unavailable. If I was a conspiracy fan I might accuse Cablevision of getting paid by other networks to sabotage CBS.

1 comment:

  1. Cablevision doesn't want to make CBS unavailable. They must have a deal with CBS to steer people like you and me (with no CBS in New Haven) to the online CBS streaming service. BTW if you have a newer TV with Roku or similar you can watch CBS streaming on your big TV in front of the couch. Welcome to the beginning of your a la carte tv world my friend.

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