I’m getting email about Comcast migrating MSNBC and CNN out of its expanded tier to a higher priced tier while keeping Fox News on expanded tier in a number of markets. If this is actually going on, I’m mightily curious.
Such shifts do not happen casually. They are generally the product of fairly intense negotiations among cable operators and programmers. They also require advance notice to viewers. This makes me extremely reluctant to impute a political motive here. If NBC and Time Warner (the owners of MSNBC and CNN respectively) were being screwed against their will over a political agenda, I would have expected to hear it in DC. What mainstream coverage there is of this suggests it is part of Comcast’s general digital upgrade. So we should expect to see all remaining channels migrated off to the higher priced tier eventually. While that will constitute a significant rate increase, it will put everyone back on equal footing. Besides, as the DC Circuit instructed us all last month, cable operators have no market power and cannot influence the programming market, whatever your personal experience to the contrary may be.
So if anyone has more info on this and would like to either comment below or talk to me, I’d love to hear about it.
I suppose I should add that unless Comcast failed to give proper notice to subscribers before changing their channel line up, their is nothing the FCC can do about it, so don’t bother complaining.
Stay tuned . . .
Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory
Also tagged cable operators, cnn, comcast, contrary, dc circuit, email, fcc, fox news, msnbc, nbc, programmers
As I announced last December, I am no longer with Media Access Project. For the present, I am doing a spot of consulting through an LLC I formed with my brother, Strength to Strength Develop-Ed, LLC (or just STS LLC).
I mention this because yesterday I entered a notice of appearance on behalf of Herring Broadcasting, Inc., DBA WealthTV to assist them in their ongoing carriage discrimination complaint against Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House. So, lest anyone suffer any confusion, I want to make clear this is just me on my own and not anything having to do with Media Access Project or its clients. Also, for anyone who sees me blog on the carriage complaint issues or — I suppose — on other cable matters, and you disagree, feel free to disregard my arguments for entirely new reasons than you did previously.
In other news, in addition to the book I am writing for IG Publishing, I have a nearly completed manuscript based on the last five years of Tales of the Sausage Factory. Anyone with suggestions on who might be interested in publishing such a thing should drop me a line. And, in keeping with the trends of the time, anyone interested can follow me on Twitter or on Facebook.
Stay tuned . . . .
It is a rather trite cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But in law, where concepts such as precedent and law matter a great deal, there’s an even bigger problem: Those who do not learn from history are likely to miss the obvious.
As we all know, Comcast has invested a lot of time in arguing that they lacked notice that the FCC would enforce the principles of the policy statement via a complaint against them. “How could we possibly have known?” Comcast has asked, winning sympathetic nods from a variety of folks. “Policy statements aren’t enforceable! How can you possibly punish us for something we didn’t know we might be held accountable for, all our public statements to the contrary?”
Well, let us suppose that Comcast was told two years ago today that the FCC would entertain complaints if Comcast blocked or degraded traffic. Would that make a difference? If the FCC had said directly to Comcast: “If in the future evidence arises that any company is willfully blocking or degrading Internet content, affected parties may file a complaint with the Commission.” I would think we could all agree that this constituted “notice,” yes? Perhaps not notice of whether or not the behavior at issue constituted blocking or degrading — that is, after all, what the Commission determines in a complaint. But certainly if the FCC had told Comcast directly, to its face, no ifs and or buts, the above quoted line, I would hope we could all agree that Comcast had received reasonable notice that parties could bring complaints to the Commission, asking the Commission to determine whether the parties had behaved in an inappropriate manner.
Because — Surprise! — exactly two years ago today, that is exactly what the FCC told Comcast.
More below . . . .
As reported by Broadband Reports and now confirmed elsewhere, a Time Warner internal memo indicates Time Warner will pilot a program where it has an explicit bandwidth cap, and users that exceed the cap will pay additional explicit fees — rather like what happens now with your standard cell phone package where you buy a bundle of minutes and then pay for any overages. The pilot will include a website to allow customers to track their usage, moderate their behavior, or buy additional capacity if they wish.
I agree with Dave Isenberg that this is the best way for Time Warner to handle its network capacity constraints and address the supposed 5% of users gobbling 50% of the bandwidth. We can expect some heavy users to move to other networks without caps, but also expect that users that use much less capacity and frustrated by congestion caused by heavy use by others to prefer plans like Time Warner’s because it should produce a less congested pipe overall.
I would be remiss if I failed to note that I was just musing about this the other day, giving me a chance to do another Stephen Colbert I CALLED IT!!! dance.
O.K., shameless gloating over. Analysis below . . . .
In another sign that the FCC has gotten serious in crackdown on cable abuse of market power — and that this message has penetrated to the staff level — consider the case of the NFL Network and Time Warner.