Cue the demonic laughter.
Echostar's Dish Network, the 12 million subscriber satellite distributor, now has a wicked plan for Lifetime, telling the network in essence: "If your viewers really want to see Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network, we will give it to them without raising their monthly fees. One thing, though: They need to tell us they want it."
In the ongoing tussle for higher subscribers fees for cable networks, satellite providers and cable operators always seem to play a game of blink. Dish says Lifetime wants a major 75 percent increase in subscriber fees. In their long dispute, Dish has firmly said no, and perhaps added further humiliation by signing on Lifetime competitor Oxygen as a replacement. Lifetime has waged a campaign in telling subscribers to dump Dish.
But now Dish takes a different tack--betting the house that only a small portion of Lifetime viewers will actually ask for the network. "We will pay the most recent rate proposed to us by Lifetime for the service. No further negotiation or arguing over rates is necessary," says Eric Sahl, senior vice president of programming on the fairsatellite.com Web site.
That'll show you Lifetime executives! What sort of explanation will you give your customers now? How can you resist our evil plan?
Dish's real strategy is betting that maybe 1 million of Dish's 12 million subscribers might bite. That would still leave Lifetime in the hole for some 11million subscribers. For Dish, the deal would lower the overall subscribers' fees it pays for Lifetime networks.
Dish thinks it's a game of truth: Identify the "true" Lifetime viewer from the "casual" Lifetime viewer from the "non-Lifetime" viewer. No network can live in this kind of a la carte programming world--its entire advertising revenue model would go to hell.
But we all know the test isn't a fair one.
Lifetime and other networks depend on quick and easy decisions made by consumers who want to quickly flip their remotes to get the channel and program they want.
If they're not available, it's kind of like the electricity going out. You take it for granted for most of your life, and then a blackout happens. That's when you pick up the phone to call someone--because you really need it.
Loyal Lifetime viewers who need the network to live will do just that. Others will just sit in the dark and be quiet--because they don't mind.