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.
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.