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June 2008 Archives

FiOS: More Bang for the Buck

June 27, 2008 10:18 AM

Just got off the phone with my friend Bobby, who dumped Cablevision’s triple play and signed up for Verizon’s FiOS bundle of services: digital video, phone and high-speed Internet access.

Price was her driving motivator. Bobby was sick and tired of watching her bill go up from the initial one-year offer of $99 per month to $136. FiOS let her lock in a $109 monthly rate for two years.

Bobby got more than she had hoped for: far more channels than Cablevision had offered, plus free premium channels from Verizon for three months.

When she called Cablevision to cancel, she stopped them dead in their tracks when the customer service reps were going to offer her incentives to stay the course.

Which raises the question: How come cable companies aren’t willing to wheel and deal until it’s too late?

Bobby had made her decision and turned a deaf ear to what was probably a too-little-too-late pitch from Cablevision.

Is Cable Really Recession-Proof?

June 25, 2008 11:49 AM

Prevailing wisdom gleaned from past recessions would suggest it is, with a few caveats. During recessions, cable subscribers always trim the sails a little. They drop pricey premium services, only to restore them when the good times roll again.

But this go-round, the economic headwinds are much stronger, with people feeling the double whammy of high gas prices and skyrocketing food costs.

The Associated Press today reports about two kids in Salt Lake City who took to the streets to protest higher gas prices that led their mother to opt out of cable.

And the headwinds are likely to get stronger. The next wave of adjustable rate mortgages will reset, while nearly half of the tax rebate checks have already been issued and spent or saved, likely driving the economy into a deeper hole.

Maybe it’s time for cable to introduce price discounts to keep its customer base. Satellite TV has been aggressive lately, offering unbelievable discounted rates for new subscribers.

Even I, the queen of inertia, am thinking about DirecTV’s offer—it looks tempting.

Anyone out there make the switch yet?

Oprah Builds OWN Team

June 20, 2008 10:52 AM

This week Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced that Robin Schwartz, a relative unknown quantity in cable programming circles, was named president of the Oprah Winfrey Network that debuts next year.

But what’s more odd, is that Oprah didn’t name a CEO first. Usually, the big suit is hired first, allowing him or her to handpick the dream team.

What the Schwartz announcement says to me is that Oprah will be very hands on with the editorial direction of OWN. Rumors have been abuzz for months that MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath was a contender for the top spot. I’ve also heard that former Turner exec Scott Sassa has his hat in the ring, too.

Another name in the swirl is Susan Lyne, who left Martha Steward Living Omnimedia last week.

But does it really matter who gets the gig? Given the Schwartz hire, it’s clear to all that Oprah will run the new cable net with an iron fist.

Rep. Eshoo Wants TV Advertisers to Turn It Down

June 17, 2008 4:08 PM

Finally, a possible solution for blaring TV spots that send you scrambling to the remote to turn down the volume before deafness strikes.

This week congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said she would introduce a bill pushing for the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to reduce commercial noise.

This sounds like small potatoes given the range of issues at the FCC’s doorstep, and realistically, I’m not so sure this is possible. The noisiest spots seem to appear on local cable pods, caused by some needed but seldom done tweaking of the ad interconnect.

But if it works, people would jump for joy. I can’t tell you how many times my friend David has asked me to write a blog on this topic because it really, really bugs him.

So David, this one’s for you. Belated happy birthday!

So Much for Fox News’ Mantra ‘We Report, You Decide’

June 13, 2008 11:04 AM

Reporters have long quibbled with Fox News Channel brass about its handle, “We Report, You Decide,” with the cable news suits always saying its coverage is not partisan.

Oh yeah? Well, I’ve decided it is partisan, and it’s pro Republican. The cable net has hired as contributors GOP mastermind Karl Rove and now Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas.

However, in recent weeks, the network has bent over backwards, having to apologize for remarks said or displayed on-air about the Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama.

First Fox contributor Liz Trotta apologized for joking about Obama being assassinated. The next apology came when Fox anchor E.D. Hill did the mea culpa after describing an affectionate fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama as a “terrorist fist jab.”

And now the latest apology from Fox is about an on-screen graphic reading, “Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s baby mama.” The terminology “baby mama” is slang for an unmarried mother of a man’s child.

I’ve decided, so jump in and share your decision here.

TWC Preps for FiOS NYC Assault

June 11, 2008 12:48 PM

Verizon’s FiOS service is set to launch in New York City this fall, and Time Warner Cable is making a smart move.

It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, mainly a few new tech features, but—more important—letting its cable subscribers lock in price guarantees.

That’s the real killer app in a war that will be won on price.

My friend Bobby in White Plains, N.Y., just dumped her service provider, Cablevision, and its triple-play service. She loved Cablevision’s video, voice and cable modem, but she was sick and tired of the annual price increases.

So as we speak, she’s enduring the daylong FiOS installation, and I can’t wait to hear how she fares.

She made the switch because FiOS is locking in her rate for two years. And that’s the only reason she’s putting up with the grief of making the change.

Anyone else out here who has made the switch to FiOS? How do you like it?

I’d switch in a New York minute, but it’s not available on the spit of sand where we live.

Presidential Nominees Support ‘Army Wives’

June 5, 2008 10:38 AM

Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama salute the U.S. troops abroad in spots airing during the season premiere of Lifetime’s wildly popular “Army Wives.”

Each candidate taped a 30-second spot saluting the troops that will air within the wildly popular series about how spouses cope and support one another while their husbands are at war.

It’s a brilliant move from Lifetime, but a no-brainer for McCain or Obama. How can anyone not support the troops?

What would be more interesting, and more inflammatory would be if both contenders taped 30-second spots for CNBC’s “Kudlow & Co.,” saying “I feel your pain,” as rising gas and food prices have consumers strapped, with the economy now being voters’ No. 1 issue this election.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. Are you?

TW Cable Plays With Fire in Texas

June 3, 2008 11:59 AM

Time Warner Cable confirmed to the Washington Post today that it is conducting a test in Beaumont, Texas, to measure cable users’ uploads and downloads of Internet data, and to charge more to those subscribers who are heavy Internet users via cable modem.

TW Cable acknowledges that, like most multiple system operators, 5% of its subscriber base takes up half of the cable line capacity. The test will be watched widely, as most MSOs would love to do the very same thing.

On the surface, this sounds fair. Wireless telephone providers charge more if subscribers go over their monthly phone minutes. We’ve all been hit there.

But TW Cable is playing with fire here, because its telco competitors, which also provide high-speed Internet service through DSL, do not have those technology concerns and have no plans to charge more to broadband hogs.

This new log on the campfire could heat up competitive wars between cable and telco providers, but cable doesn’t have much choice, given its technical limitations.

I predict TW Cable’s test in Texas will be a litmus test and one that could lead to widespread changes for cable modem users, as well as subsequent brushfires in the competitive wars.