Time Warner Cable, which has yet to strike a new carriage deal with News Corp. for the latter's TV stations and cable nets, last week launched a public relations campaign to try to get subscribers on its side generally in its negotiations for program carriage. The American Cable Association Monday added its support for the campaign, saying Time Warner Cable was also fighting for its smaller and mid-sized cable operator members.
Saying "no more" to what it argues are unchecked price increases it must sometimes pass along to customers, Time Warner Cable asked subscribers to weigh in at a new Website on whether the operator should "roll over" or "get tough."
"We're just one company," says Time Warner Cable, "but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment."
The American Cable Association, which has made fighting retransmission consent fee hikes a priority, said it supported the campaign.
"Small cable operators and their customers, who cannot afford to engage in hand-to-hand combat with price-gouging media conglomerates, applaud Time Warner Cable's efforts to ‘Get Tough' with programmers in hopes that some modicum of reasonableness will return to the market as a result," said ACA President Matt Polka in a statement.
ACA is concerned both by increases in station retransmission consent fees and cable channel bundling deals it says forces its members, and by extension their customers, to pay for channels they don't watch.
For their part, broadcasters have argued they are simply trying to get full value for their TV station signals--broadcast network programming is the most-watched programming on cable--while attempting to build a dual-revenue model that will help them weather the sea changes of new competition and the economic meltdown,
ACA has called for a government investigation into the retransmission consent regime and what they say is abuse of market power.
"The notion that ACA and Time Warner are suddenly concerned about high cable rates is simply not credible, given the cable industry's history of raising rates four to six times the annual rate of inflation," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "The ultimate irony is that according to SNL Kagan, Time Warner is paying its own cable network TNT as much as $1.00 per cable subscriber per month in retransmission consent fees. That's four times more compensation than local broadcasters affiliated with the major networks are receiving for the most -atched programs in television that include the Super Bowl, '60 Minutes,' 'American Idol' and 'Lost.'"