Obviously, cable and satellite operators have no interest in encouraging cord-cutting. Sure, they say there’s not much evidence of any groundswell now and they aren’t concerned about one coming. Nonetheless, any customers dropping TV service willing to survive on a Netflix-Hulu-ESPN3 online plan marks a blow, especially when they tell the neighbors about their $1,200 a year in savings.
So, here’s a curious one: As DirecTV battles Viacom in a carriage dispute, the satellite operator is offering a partial cord-cutter’s guide with favorite shows on MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and at least 10 other networks.
Clearly its aim is to jab Viacom and let customers know if the battle leads to blackouts, there are other options. But the GPS for free or low-cost alternatives just might get a customer thinking about saving huge monthly bills – maybe even ones from DirecTV.
Unable to do without “Jersey Shore” or “SpongeBob”? DirecTV offers up four options that don’t require any TV service.
The strategy is rooted in standard-issue tactics that take place when an operator and programmer reach a financial stand-off and networks could go off the air. In this case, a slew of Viacom networks – which also include Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and TV Land -- would go dark in millions of DirecTV homes after midnight Tuesday.
So, Viacom and DirecTV are slinging arrows and charging the other side with all kinds of bad-faith intentions.
Summary on Viacom side: we provide immense value to DirecTV; we get paid less than we are entitled to; DirecTV is rapacious and wants you the customer to pay higher bills as it reaps billions in profits.
Summary on DirecTV side: Viacom is rapacious and, while it offers great networks, it wants us to pay a ridiculous amount to carry them; it also wants us to pay to offer a bunch of channels hardly anyone watches, that's crazy; if we don’t fight for you, our valued customers, your bill might go up and it won’t be our fault.
Typically, both sides have turned to the Web – and probably elsewhere – to build support for their arguments. Enter DirecTVPromise.com.
Looking to fight back against any encouragement from Viacom advising customers to drop DirecTV, the satellite operator says don't bother -- that will only lead to higher prices across the industry. DirecTV also promises that a deal eventually will get done.
Then, looking to assure customers all is not lost if Snooki, “iCarly” or Jon Stewart become unavailable, there’s an “Other Ways To Watch” section.
“Find out how you can continue to enjoy your favorite Viacom shows online,” the site says.
It offers an easily searchable database pointing to options for 10-plus networks. For MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and Nickelodeon's “SpongeBob,” there are links to free episodes -- along with pay options Amazon Prime, iTunes and Netflix. Same for the likes of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” and VH1’s “Basketball Wives.” (The pay options may not bring the most recent content, so perhaps a customer would view them as a long-distance DVR.)
Hulu Plus is cited as an option for some shows, including Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.”
(Separately, DirecTV offers visitors suggestions for related shows on other networks it carries.)
However unlikely it may be that DirecTV’s menu might lead to people going cordless, why would the satellite operator want to go anywhere near that pay-TV powder keg?