Over the weekend, a friend of mine who lives in Queens asked me if Fox5 was still “on strike.” That’s how he perceived the ongoing Fox-Cablevision retrans spat that threatens to keep millions from watching the World Series tonight–a few hundred WNYW-WWOR New York workers walking around with picket signs, like so many French transit workers or French refinery workers or French pension reformers.
The typical consumer doesn’t read the NY Times articles explaining the stalemate, and the typical consumer definitely doesn’t know what the heck “retransmission consent” means.
So I did a quick, informal and admittedly unscientific poll of some Cablevision-subscriber friends who don’t work in the media, to see what they think of–and what they think is the reason for–channel 5 and 9 being dark in their homes.
The immediate reaction from nearly every one of them was “I don’t care.” People seem to see instances such as channels going dark as opportunities to read more or go out more or go to bed earlier and finally address those long dormant New Year’s resolutions about watching less television. One friend said he’d finish his dissertation that much quicker with fewer TV channels.
For what it’s worth, nearly all the friends I contacted blame Cablevision for the blackout. I don’t know if that means News Corp. is winning the public posturing battle, which includes full-page ads–a lot of them–in the daily newspapers and nonstop PR missives from headquarters. I think it’s because Cablevision is the company they give $150 or so to every month, and may not have a very high opinion of to begin with. (By way of disclosure, I subscribe to FiOS after three years with Cablevision. We switched to get BBC America and to save a little money. No hard feelings.) The typical consumer’s connection to News Corp. may be a bit fuzzier–they don’t see News Corp. raising their rates every year or so, and most don’t seem to have the same antipathy for it.
Writes one friend: “What I can’t get past is that Cablevision seems to be the only cable provider that has this issue with networks (a la the food network fiasco at new years). I hear that they raised the price outrageously but didn’t every provider deal with this? So, yes, I blame Cablevision in this WAY more than Fox.”
But another friend is taking Cablevision’s side-only because he doesn’t like Fox and what he deems to be the right-wing slant of its news coverage (at least on cable). “There are so many things I don’t like about them,” says my lefty pal. “If they want to go off the air, good-let someone else pick up their market share.”
My friends say they’ll watch the World Series either on MLB.com or some of the illicit sites a Cablevision rep got in hot water for pointing disgruntled customers to. Or they won’t watch it at all. (Rangers-Giants doesn’t seem to have a ton of buzz here in Gotham.)
Longer term, some say they’re looking to make the break from Cablevision. “As soon as possible, we (and actually most folks in our building) will be switching to Fios,” says one pal.
All seem to agree that Joe Six-Pack loses out when the big corporations fight over revenue. “In the end,” says one friend, “the consumers always get screwed.”