TV/Video Distributors: Squeezed, Or Looking To Squeeze Viewers?

Pity the poor cable operator, satellite distributor or telco video provider. Everyone loves their programming, but not so much their actual distribution services.

Many of the distributors have complained about the high wholesale price of sports networks, arguing that only a small number of viewers actually want the programming. Now, the distributors are getting squeezed by broadcast networks for higher retransmission fees. Can they use the same song-and-dance? Nope.

Reports suggest that CBS wants close to $2 a subscriber per month from Time Warner Cable, and probably from other multichannel video program distributors.  This would be less than half the price of ESPN, which is getting just north of $5, but double what’s paid for TBS, USA and other high-cable rated networks, which get to around $1.

Steve Burke, president/chief executive officer of NBCUniversal also wants to close the gap for NBC.



All this could mean further problems for distributors down the line in terms of programming costs. Will they be squeezed to give up some of their business to cheaper over-the-top services?  Or will more viewership will go to the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime?

Multichannel video program distributors have been weary of the possible loss of more cord-shaving, cost-costing customers, with many instituting lower-cost TV options. Comcast has one for $10 a month; Cox last month started one for around $40. Will that cannibalize things?

Where does all this lead? When network blackouts occur, consumers can complain specifically about the brands they miss, such as the NFL,  “Modern Family,” “The Voice” or “American Idol.”  They don’t complain about missing Time Warner, DirecTV, or Comcast.

In this regard, many analysts believe multichannel video program distributors will always lose the public relations war. After a while, you wonder what new tact they can take -- even as they continue to drip video subscribers, which is somewhat compensated by continued growth in broadband and voice business (for cable operators, anyway).

While negotiating with CBS, one Time Warner executive mused that consumers could consider temporarily taking on the renegade Internet-delivered service Aereo for their CBS fix.

Fight or flight? Controlling the broadband or other media pipes might lead some to find another business model -- or another point of attack.

3 comments about "TV/Video Distributors: Squeezed, Or Looking To Squeeze Viewers?".
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  1. Bill Carter from Starlink, August 2, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

    This is a good article, but I'd like to add as a past president of a TV station group. It's hard to fathom the cable guys gripe . My stations that were Fox networks received 25 cents per month per subscriber (that is changing now)no matter what the size of the market. Cable was charging the subscriber 1.25 per month for each network station. That made them one buck per sub. Stations are now getting more like $1.00 but the cable still adds in their buck. The disparity that some miss is that sports is the culprit. The most watched cable show outside of sports is wrestling.
    90 of the top 100 shows on Television last month were on broadcast. Broadcast brings them the daily numbers no one else does. Granted, sports get bigger numbers when they are on, but that is less than 5% of the annual broadcast
    days. I sympathize with cable that they are trapped with too many religious, channels and others they are blackmailed with, to carry such as the "Storage Wars' and such.. I understand too that a la carte is the answer but that does away with diversity and an even bigger dilemma for cable. to rectify. It can be fixed but not without a lot of kicking and screaming. I was a broadcaster for sixty years and happy that there are others to now solve it, without my help.
    the other Bill Carter

  2. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications, August 3, 2013 at 6:38 a.m.

    Hey, DirecTV I want my $5.00 a month for some sport package that I do not want and will never watch...

  3. Jeff Pugel from Essex Digital Platform, August 5, 2013 at 11:38 p.m.

    In these increasingly common squabbles between the networks and the cable companies its the viewers (and bill payers) who are being forgotten about. Unfortunately however the negotiations end, it's the consumers that will literally be footing the bill.

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