New TV Leverage: Hard Ground For Pay TV, New Media

Traditional TV leverage is changing in a growing digital world, one with lots of alternatives. What leverage remains? Depends how much cement you can pour.

Think of the big DirecTV pay TV platform -- now at 25 million subscribers -- the biggest pay TV provider in the U.S.

According to the Los Angeles Times, DirecTV’s Dan York is a big -- especially hard-nosed -- negotiator when it comes to signing on those big carriage deals. Now, since AT&T DirecTV acquisition, York, as Chief Content Officer AT&T Entertainment, has a bigger leverage.

"We all negotiate hard to get good deals,” said one TV executive to the paper. “But Dan mashes your face into the cement."

That can hurt.

Many TV networks -- broadcast and cable -- have complained sometimes bitterly about TV carriage negotiations, with fingers pointing everywhere. This has been especially hard on those smaller, mid-size more independently minded networks. Weather Channel, for one, had a tough go of it some time back -- with DirecTV.



Media business critics will continue to talk about how the “gatekeepers” are still very powerful -- the pay TV channels. DirecTV, Comcast, now Charter-Time Warner Cable, are still in this group.

Basically, all want to keep program costs low -- so they don’t have raise monthly prices to consumers. And if TV programmers don’t comply? So long. Will consumers miss them? Of course.  But maybe not so much in the future.

Many TV networks big and small have had issues -- including big established broadcast networks. Few  to go a weekend or two without the NFL, “The Voice" or “Dancing with the Stars. TV networks will continue to feel the pinch -- and so with consumers.

Now with new digital TV services -- standalone TV network apps as well as ones  looking to mimic traditional pay TV services like DirecTV or Comcast -- consumers might have their own kind of leverage. That said, even traditional pay TV providers -- including DirecTV, Comcast and others -- are moving into the same game.

But until all that shakes out, we will be left with those long-term business leverage issues.

Perhaps future TV network blackouts -- caused by negotiations that fail over days or weeks  -- might be less of a concern.

Maybe consumers choosing major dramatic alternatives on how they buy future TV programming. Those business executives? Big leverage could get stuck in their own cement.

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