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Friday, January 1, 2010

Biting off more than they can chew: Cablevision blocks HGTV and Food Network.

Hey, at least you still have Fox.
Sure, I’m watching a ton of bowl games today, but I’m also watching Cablevision’s pending PR disaster unfold.

To recap: Cablevision subscribers like moi woke up New Year’s Day to find that the Food Network and HGTV were no longer available. The parent company of the two networks, Scripps, claims Cablevision was underpaying for the right to carry the shows.

(Read Scripps’ full statement here.)

For their part, Cablevision’s side basically gives Scripps a Paula Dean “Bless your heart!” Scripps returned fire later in the day, with Food Network and HGTV subsequently weighing in.

He Said, She Said now in full effect.

Reading into Scripps’ statement, you might have to give Cablevision a tiny bit of cred for not passing on a rate hike to subscribers for carrying the shows. So don’t hate—Cablevision’s saving you money!

Okay, tongue in cheek, middle finger extended, as a customer, I can’t help but feel ripped off. Legally, I suppose they’ll say they’re covered with the statement at the bottom of their website:

“©Copyright CSC Holdings Inc. Pricing, terms and offerings subject to change and discontinuance without notice.”

Sure that legal disclaimer says they can change anything at will, but signing up for a cable or dish subscription knowing ahead of time that certain channels aren’t available is one thing.

It’s another when they offer channels before you sign up without mentioning possible contract issues which might jeopardize service four months after subscribing. (Oh hey, look, that’s my scenario!)

That’s sorta like a realtor forgetting to mention the ghost problem in the attic.

Yes, it’s unrealistic to expect consumers to know all the ins and outs of distribution deals that go on all the time behind the scenes, but no legal disclaimer can hide the fact that Cablevision pulled a fast one.

If the FCC or FTC regulate what we watch, listen to or buy, then I can see one consumer regulation which needs to be put in place here moving forward:

I better get what you advertised and what I signed up for.

So, while this is about money, yes, Cablevision and Scripps are going to find out soon enough just how much when customers switch providers. Read the net kids, read the net. Just look at the Twitter and Google streams in the lower left sidebar here. Unhappy campers FTW! The kind who vote with their ATM card.

A typical response on Twitter goes like this:

“Boo. HGTV and Food Network were taken of my cable lineup. Might as well cancel cable.

Then there’s more friendly responses like this.

See, one thing that Twitter et al. has allowed people now is this rush to judgement after they rush to their keyboard when brands fail them. The back and forth finger pointing from Scripps and Cablevision?

Doesn’t matter, because to customers, they’re both to blame.

Both companies seem to forget however that for many people, the only reason they GOT Cablevision in the first place was because of those two networks—and people would pay anything just to have those shows.

Even if a rate hike gets passed on down the line to subscribers like yet another hidden fee, people will pay—because they always do. As long as their channel is available. That’s what I don’t get here. People will pay, but you don’t offer it?

Look, if the difference between what Scripps says Cablevision should pay and what they’re actually paying is approximately $1.50, then raise monthly rates accordingly and let people opt-out if they refuse the hike.

But don’t just cut them off without giving them a choice.

That’s the thing with weekend warriors and foodies: You got them hooked, then you cut off their supply of crack. Think Verizon and Dish Network might be fielding a few new calls for sign-ups this week?


Then there’s the social media freaks everywhere (like moi), who’ll whip out their keyboards and bang away on this latest case study in brand FAIL. There’s a lot wrong here though to be sure, not the least of which will be the fallout for Cablevision over the next few weeks.

Thing is, I don’t think Cablevision and owner Dolan care. (They’ve had their past issues with YES and Yankee broadcasts, and unhappy customers come with the job.) Which touches on another issue:

We just keep switching between brands who we hate less than the others who screw us over—and companies know it.

Ultimately, Cablevision had to have anticipated losing subscribers. Problem is, it’s not easy for me to switch. I’ve had trouble with the dish and Vios is not available in the area. The only other provider? AT&T.

Since I do have “other” choices, I suppose Cablevision doesn’t have a monopoly—technically. But when those “other” choices suck more than what you have, what’s a consuma ta do!

Maybe some fan of either channel who’s also *wink, wink* a practicing attorney should start a class action suit here. Don’t laugh: One fan sued the NFL to allow it to offer individual game packages through Dish Network’s Sunday Ticket and won.

Still, I don’t blame just Cablevision
here: Scripps is apparently the one who wants more money. For their part while the parents fight, brother and sister (Food Network and HGTV), are siding with mom and asking people to call Cablevision at 866-695-BEST and voice their displeasure. Or visit and to bitch and moan.

(Until the two channels come back, both sites offer episodes online, and Food Network allows you to watch through their app. Otherwise, get your Paula fix here. For the home improvement crowd, enjoy this little gem from SNL.)

Thing is, even though both sides have made it my problem with this little stunt, it’s not my problem they can’t figure out what to charge what the program is worth.

Not that it matters. We’ll switch—and then end up switching back when Dish Network screws it up.



Unknown said...

Cablevision didn't pull the plug, The food Network decided that it wanted a 700% INCREASE and stopped offering it at a reasonable rate. You might be willing to pay whatever it takes to get your Food Network but what about those that aren't willing to? Is Cablevision supposed to charge seperatly for each channel offered? Packaging reduces over-all cost. If you had to pay for each desired channel you would probably have to pay three times the amount for less than half the programming.

Jonathan said...

It's a matter of how you want to look at Cablevision as a service provider. Are they a Robin Hood making sure the consumer doesn't get fleeced by the greedy networks who, if they had their way, would charge consumers as much just to watch their one program as Cablevision charges for a full lineup of programs? Or is Cablevision, like the health insurance companies, simply playing the part of a hustler? - "you wanna watch tv, ya gotta go thru us and we ain't no non-profit!" Granted those are polar extremes but i tend to lean more towards that latter scenario. The way I see it - if I have to pick a side then I've got to go with the side that's ACTUALLY CREATING the content that I'm enjoying. Within a week before the plug was pulled on FN, during an episode of Good Eats!, I actually said out loud "I love Food Network." I have never said out loud or even thought "I love how my cable box transmits my favorite programs so I can watch then. How fortunate I am that such an innovative service exists and so reasonably priced! I mean, it's not like tv used to be free or anything."

Anthony from Long Island said...

I agree.. Scribbs is really hurting their customers.. they are asking for a huge increase and then decided to pull the channel during any negotiations.. i am sorry, that is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

@Richard - I hear ya. Both sides are blaming the other and there's no way to position the argument without one side feeling screwed. I just think that Cablevision should be compelled to carry the packages we signed up for until they get a deal worked out.

Some might not pay more for it. There's a few packages I won’t pay extra for just to get one channel, which goes to your point of reducing overall cost. I don't care about either of these channels but others in my house do.

It'd be nice to see a la carte pricing for individual shows vs. overall packages.

My other reasoning for paying the $1.50 is that they bury so many other taxes and fees each month, what's the dif. But then, where do you draw the line when other channels start asking for more.

@Jonathan -

“I have never said out loud or even thought "I love how my cable box transmits my favorite programs so I can watch then”

Good point. I hate Cablevision more for their service issues lately (broken signal, lag times between channels.)

@Anthony - Yep.

Anonymous said...

Call cablevison, and I will be SAVING money switching to FIOS tv and leaving internet and phone with them, I am switching in a week if a deal is not reach.

Anonymous said...

As a Cablevision subscriber, I am once again left angry and frustrated. Months back when we lost numerous channels ( Lifetime, Soapnet, A&E, MTV, etc...) I was furious. Calling Cablevision only left me fuming!! I was told that they had every right to do this and that if I wanted those channels back I would have to pay an additional $6.99 a month per box to receive them on the TV's in my home that did not have boxes. I explained that when I signed on with Cablevision, it was with the understanding that I would continue to receive the channels advertised to me throughout my contract with them (Cablevision). They said that they could pull channels at any time. I was treated rudely and given a "tough sh*t" attitude across the board, no matter who I spoke with. This time I would not even attempt to call, it would only waste my time and lead to further frustration. The next call I make to Cablevision will be to cancel my service when my Fios is connected later next week!!

Anonymous said...

Food and HGTV are both top 10 viewed networks on Cablevision but they are being paid like they are top 70. As the content providers who create audience for Cablevision (who sells local ads on both networks at premium rates) they deserve appropriate compensation.

I will be switching to FiOS if a deal is not reached within a couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Also -- Cablevision will be losing my optonline internet business. When their accountants calculated the cost of lost subscriptions I hope they included the cost to their internet business.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1, 2, 3, 4 - Agree. Although, I can’t switch to Fios as they don’t have it here, only AT&T, which is way cheaper each month and has HGTV/TFN. But it’s still AT&T.

M said...

Switch to VERIZON FiOS there should be no reason a cable TV company should be able to control your life's entertainment when your paying for it.
cable has already raised their rates and now we get even less, if its optimum its crap
you might even help 225 laid off verizon workers return to work. lets once and for all send a message to cable you cant control our viewing content

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I was reading about HGTV and FOOD Network with CABLEVISION. I have DISH Network as my TV provider and I currently get HGTV and FOOD NETWORK. Not to mention I also have their Sling box which allows me to stream live TV content onto my iPhone or laptop. As a DISH employee I can tell you that DISH is the only provider to offer all your channels and DVR content you get at home, on-the-go. You should really check out for more info.