Commentary

Charter Communications: Why Not Show ALL The Network Fees A Cable System Pays?

Charter Communications, your customers need the bigger picture.

The cable operator thinks it's going to curry favor with its customers by telling them, in their bills, what is paid in retransmission fees to run broadcast networks. I have a better idea: Why not tell customers all the fees Charter pays for every network that goes into consumers' homes -- broadcast, cable, whatever?

Consumer don't care about industry-speak "retransmission" fees. If they care at all, they care about all the money their cable company -- and, in turn -- what they, the consumers -- pay for cable programming fees.

On its Web site, Charter explains to customers that they will start seeing a "Broadcast TV Surcharge" in the "taxes and fees" section of their cable bills. "These local TV signals were historically made available to Charter at no cost, or low cost. However, in recent years the prices demanded by local broadcast TV stations have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers," says Charter.

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What does Charter really think? That I'm going to scream over the 50 cents a month charge for carrying CBS? No. I'll scream if I see a $1 a month fee from MTV, a network I no longer watch with any consistency.

I am not a Charter customer. But if I were, I would be asking why I have to pay 25 cents, or 50 cents, or whatever, for any network I don't watch -- be it the Fur Channel, EggNog Network, or the Nose Hair programming service.

This is where cable industry executives continue to have their head up their set-top boxes, acting as if it's only cable programming that people really want. If you look at any TV research, the higher-rated TV shows continue to be on broadcast television.

Cable TV executives have to stop singling out just one programming segment. That's not the way consumers -- especially young TV viewers who consume television -- look at TV. Actually, they haven't looked at TV this way for at least two decades.

Virtually all TV consumers are TV platform-agnostic these days. They really don't care about the different business categories of networks. Pinning most problems on broadcast stations will only raise issues cable TV executives would rather not think about -- like a la carte programming. That will create even bigger headaches.

5 comments about "Charter Communications: Why Not Show ALL The Network Fees A Cable System Pays?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 15, 2010 at 8:25 p.m.

    Amen. This is a terrific idea. But thanks to honor among thieves, I doubt cable operators who have ownership positions with cable networks, or sweetheart deals with shopping channels, will want to be so transparent.

  2. Robert Rini from Rini Coran, PC, September 16, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.

    Personally, the failure to disclose the cost of cable programming services while disclosing certain broadcast stations information is misleading to consumers and smacks of unfair business practices and bad faith. It may also violate confidentiality provisons in retransmission consent agreements and implied covenants of good faith dealing. There is nothing wrong with TV stations charging cable companies who repackage popular broadcast channels and sell subscriptions to the public. Its sort of like saying because you can get tap water for free, bottled water should be free too.

  3. Matthew Polka, September 16, 2010 at 3:10 p.m.

    Actually, cable companies DO itemize their cable programming fees, as much as the programming media conglomerates allow, which is not much. That's the line item for "cable programming," or some other similar term, on most cable bills. Until recently, broadcasters have not typically had a line-item of their own on cable bills, but as broadcasters' retransmission consent fees skyrocket to dollars per subscriber per month, they better get used to it because they will not be able to hide any longer. These line-items will destroy the myth broadcasters like to perpetuate about "free TV," which is anything but free. Fact is, cable companies would indeed add more, specific line-items and tell subscribers EXACTLY how much broadcasters and programming media conglomerates are charging for their programming (not just an aggregate figure) IF the BROADCASTERS and PROGRAMMING CONGLOMERATES didn't PROHIBIT such disclosure through confidentiality agreements forced on the cable company. Truth is the broadcasters and programming conglomerates don't want the public to know how much they are charging, so they force a gag order on cable to receive the programming. But as these prices from broadcasters and programmers continue to rise, expect Congress, the FCC and the public to demand more information as they should, and shine a spotlight on those responsible.

  4. Robert Rini from Rini Coran, PC, September 16, 2010 at 7:14 p.m.

    Funny Matt that you would claim confidentiality is "forced" on cable companies when the opposite is true. I have negotiated hundreds of these agreements on behalf of broadcasters and can assure you it is the cable operator who insists on keeping this information confidential so they have more knowledge of the marketplace. The truth is that broadcast programming is provided to cable operators at bargain basement prices relative to cable programming services and yet remains some of the most-watched and popular programming even in this new media era.

  5. Port Scan from Furbugen, September 26, 2010 at 8:37 p.m.

    Wayne, get your facts right, and quit complaining about something you obviously know nothing about. It's not rocket science for one to figure out that an MSO must pass along costs to subscribers when programmers pass fees to the MSO. Networks such as HBO, Cinemax and Starz charge a "homes passed" fee, not per subscriber, meaning, if an MSO's footprint has 400,000 homes passed, but only 25 people have HBO, the MSO is charged the cost associated with 400,000 homes. Stop posting garbage and do your homework.

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