In 2008, Cable Operators Don't View All Networks And Stations The Same Way

It's incredible cable operators still can't figure out the best viewing channels on their systems: broadcast TV stations.

Now the cable systems, through their lobbyist the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, are complaining -- again -- about retransmission consent rules that give TV stations the right to charge operators. They want to rip apart many of the rules, including being allowed to import broadcast network signals from other markets so as not to pay fees to stations in their own markets.

Don't cable operators also pay for ESPN, MTV, and other established cable channels? Why should it be any different for network affiliate and other TV stations? NCTA views these as your "fathers'" TV stations -- older, quaint, with some use, but nothing you want to hang your hat on long term.

Cable networks give cable systems value -- and, yes, some local advertising inventory. TV stations also give system operators value, one that can be measured with an easily proven metric: Viewers tend to watch lots of those channels and programs, still more than the average cable networks and programs.

Cable attitudes are not universal. More modern-thinking cable operators and stations have, I'm sure, struck friendlier retransmission deals, perhaps even giving up some local TV advertising inventory for cable operators to sell in lieu of retransmission fees.

Overall, however, cable operators still think like a monopoly -- even though there is increasing competition from satellite and telco video distributors. Cable still believes it is the little guy fighting over the big, bad media conglomerates.

In the midst of any contract dispute between cable system and programmer, results are typical: People get pissed when channels/stations are temporarily tossed off the air, whether a local network affiliate, or VH1 and The History Channel.

Even then, cable operators need to recognize viewers like some networks more than others -- a fact that's never reflected in their regulatory dealings



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