Cablevision Systems’ “antitrust” case against Viacom -- which started about a year ago -- has moved to its next legal phase. Cablevision claims that Viacom is forcing it to buy Viacom’s full suite of programming channels, some 14 in all.
Cablevision really wants just eight -- some of the bigger name channels like MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon. It says what Viacom is doing amounts to “antitrust” activities. A U.S. District Court denied Viacom’s recent motion for dismissal of the suit.
Viacom claims Cablevision is just looking pay less for the channels it wants overall.
If Cablevision wins, many believe it would radically alter the TV business -- just as if Aereo wins in the Supreme Court, it wouldn’t have to pay carriage fees to broadcasters.
If pay TV distributors, cable, satellite, and telco operators, are allowed to pick and choose whatever TV stations and networks are available, we would be headed for a true on-demand marketplace where consumers pay for exactly what they wanted. Much research has shown viewers generally watch anywhere from 7 to 12 core channels.
This isn’t exactly about a la carte programming. Yet detractors would say if Cablevision’s scenario wins out, it could ultimately mean skyrocketing prices for TV consumers -- as traditional TV content providers and their distributors would be asking much more in the way of fees for those individual networks.
True a la carte programming distribution would mean traditional national TV ad dollars would decline substantially, as national U.S. TV distribution for those networks would fall to possibly half their existing levels.
The downside, perhaps irony, is that some traditional TV broadcast networks have already threatened that should Aereo prevail, they claim they will turn into cable TV networks.
So if Cablevision gets its way, that option -- for those owning broadcast networks and cable networks -- will be less promising. Double trouble?