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Better Late Than Never: CBS Adds $9.99 Ad-free Option to Its All Access Pass

Phillip Dampier August 31, 2016 Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

cbs all accessViewers hoping to see their last Cialis ad while watching 60 Minutes online now have that option as CBS announces the introduction of a commercial-free plan for its All Access subscription service.

For an extra $4 a month, CBS will remove all online advertising from its current run and new shows.  Those who don’t mind the ads can continue to pay $5.99/month, which includes an ad free experience for older content the network calls CBS Classics. Current CBS programming includes a heavy load of advertising and it is often repetitious. For some, $9.99/month is not too much to pay for the complete removal of commercials.

“The foundation of CBS All Access is not only about giving CBS fans access to more of the content they want, but also giving them more choice in how they watch their favorite CBS programming,” said Marc DeBevoise, president and chief operating officer of CBS Interactive. “The addition of a commercial-free plan gives our subscribers even more ways to customize their CBS viewing experience – from which devices to whether they watch in or out of the home, and now with commercials or without.”

Current subscribers will have the option to move to the commercial-free plan by logging on to their account through CBS.com.

For the commercial-free plan, CBS All Access’s live-streaming offering of local CBS Television stations, available throughout the U.S. in more than 150 markets, will continue to feature the same commercials as the over-the-air broadcast, and select on-demand shows will include promotional interruptions.

CBS All Access is available online at CBS.com, on mobile devices and tablets via the CBS App for iOS, Android and Windows 10, and on Roku Players, Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Chromecast, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, with more connected device platforms coming soon.

CBS Considers Ad-Free All Access

Phillip Dampier August 11, 2016 Consumer News, Online Video 2 Comments

cbs all accessCBS may have discovered consumers don’t like to pay $5.99 for the company’s streaming service only to be inundated with just as many commercials as an over-the-air viewer encounters without having to pay a penny.

“We’re toying with the idea of a commercial free option and how we might roll that out to consumers,” Marc DeBevoise, president of CBS Interactive said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, reports Variety.

The monthly fee includes live streaming of the local CBS affiliate in some markets and a library of content — both old and new — owned or licensed by CBS. While some of the older shows are shown with few commercials, current season shows often contain a full commercial load. That appears to be turning viewers off, and the service is growing more slowly than its competitors.

DeBevoise told attendees CBS will try limiting the ad load on debuting original content that will be available exclusively through CBS All Access in the United States. A new version of “Big Brother” is the first new series, expected to start this fall. “Star Trek: Discovery” and a spinoff of “The Good Wife” will follow in 2017. CBS plans to cut ads by 25% for those shows, leaving paying streaming viewers with about 12 minutes of ads to watch per hour.

To draw attention to the streaming service, CBS will air the pilot episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” on the broadcast network, but episodes after that will be exclusively available online.

CBS is planning to introduce other streaming-exclusive series through All Access with four new shows for 2017 and more beyond that.

CBS wouldn’t say how much it might charge for ad-free viewing.

Sony PlayStation Vue Adds 9 New CBS Local Stations to Lineup

vue

Sony PlayStation Vue has added live streams of CBS stations in nine new markets, expanding the reach of CBS-affiliated stations on the cable TV online alternative.

Effective immediately, subscribers can watch these CBS affiliates if you are located within the local coverage area (thanks to Cord Cutters News):

  • lineup playstationCalifornia: KFMB San Diego
  • Florida: WPEC West Palm Beach
  • Michigan: WWMT Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo
  • North Carolina: WBTV Charlotte
  • Ohio: WKRC Cincinnati, WOIO Cleveland
  • Pennsylvania: WHP Harrisburg
  • Texas: KEYE Austin
  • Utah: KUTV Salt Lake City

PlayStation Vue isn’t just for game consoles, available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV/Stick, and also available on the PlayStation Vue mobile app (iOS/Android). A seven-day free trial is available to U.S. viewers.

The service appears to be a more direct competitor to traditional cable television, offering a substantial number of traditional cable networks and an increasing number of local over the air stations:

PlayStation Vue Packages:

  • Access: 55+ channels, including an assortment of cable, movie and sports channels for $29.99 per month ($39.99 if local stations are provided)
  • Core: 70+ channels and regional sports networks for $34.99 per month ($44.99 if local stations are provided)
  • Elite: 100+ channels, including all channels noted above plus Epix Hits and two other entertainment channels for $44.99 per month ($54.99 if local stations are provided)

Showtime is available a-la-carte. In smaller cities without live local station streaming, the service offers on-demand access to selected network shows.

CBS All-Access Not Exactly a Runaway Success; Discounts Coming

Phillip Dampier March 9, 2016 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video 5 Comments

cbs all accessAttempts by CBS to get consumers to pay the network $5.99 a month to stream ad-filled network shows, classics, and local affiliates has proven less compelling than the network originally thought.

CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves admitted to investors “All-Access” has not met the company’s expectations, even after CBS added options to watch several of its network affiliates around the country.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Technology, Media & Telecom conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Moonves said CBS was considering discounting the service, especially if customers bundle it with Showtime’s standalone online video service, now priced at $10.99 a month.

Moonves

Moonves

Instead of relying entirely on other companies to create so-called “skinny bundles” of pared down video packages offered as an alternative of one-size-fits-all cable TV, CBS has kept some of its online video offerings in-house under the All-Access brand, which launched in October 2014.

But convincing the public to pay $6 a month for ad-laced shows is proving as much of a challenge for CBS as it had been for Hulu’s Plus option. Moonves suggested CBS is considering adding a premium ad-free option like the one Hulu offers now, for an additional $4 a month, and is also trying to get the National Football League to allow NFL game streams on All-Access in the future.

CBS’ best chance of success for its subscription service may come from offering original shows exclusively to subscribers, particularly a new Star Trek series premiering in January. Moonves predicted that would help make All-Access an “extraordinary success.”

“Next year it’s going to add substantially to our bottom line,” he added.

Moonves called cord-cutting “inevitable,” as consumers gravitate away from traditional cable television packages.

“Someone is going to figure out how to do this and how to give people what they want […] and not for $100 a month,” Moonves said. “It will [sell] for $35-39 dollars a month [and] you’ll get the 12 to 15 or 18 channels that you care about, and not the Karate Channel for 25¢ a month. That doesn’t make sense anymore.”

CBS’ Idea of Choice: $5.99/Mo for CBS Library and Live Local CBS Station Streaming

broken bankThink you are already paying too much for cable television? If you thought Comcast charges too much, consider what CBS thinks is fair to charge for an on-demand library of CBS shows and a single live stream of your local CBS station – $5.99 a month.

Retransmission consent disputes are all about the money. As your local provider fights with a local station or cable network over their latest demand for more money, channels get dropped, providers get blamed and the content owners get richer when networks are restored.

One of the richest of all is CBS, which has told investors it plans to empty $2 billion from the pockets of American cable customers by the year 2020, up from $500 million in 2013. Not only will CBS demand new programming fees from its affiliates, it is also cajoling stations to demand not less than $1.75 a month from every cable subscriber for access to the local CBS over the air station.

Each time a retransmission consent contract comes up for renewal, cable operators know as certain as the sun will rise from the east that programmers will demand a healthy rate increase for the next contract period. That is why many cable companies now look to broadband for much of their future profits, because the TV business is getting very expensive when everyone has their hand out looking for more.

Some cable companies want an end to being stuck in the middle of these disputes and are supporting a plan to compel programmers like CBS, ESPN, TNT, HBO, and all the rest to publish a retail rate for their channel or network and let consumers decide whether it is worth the asking price.

cable-inflation-comparison

A proposal introduced last year called “Local Choice” would start the process with local television stations, which have demanded ever-higher carriage fees over the last 10 years, especially for network-affiliated stations.

Under the concept, customers would be given a choice of local stations by their provider. Theoretically, a customer could subscribe to CBS and ABC and tell NBC (and its local affiliate) to take a hike if they demanded too much. Another might be happy just paying for FOX and grab the rabbit ears for anything else they wanted to watch over the air for free.

Rockefeller

Rockefeller

No local station or network would voluntarily say goodbye to the golden goose that lays compulsory retransmission consent fees programmers currently collect from every cable subscriber, so last summer Congress proposed to mandate the concept in a clause of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA).

Then Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.) beat the bipartisan drum loudly for change. But lobbyists also had drums. Rockefeller and Thune began wavering almost immediately.

“During the last month, Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune have successfully begun a discussion on Local Choice, which would empower TV viewers, maintain our policy of broadcast localism, and ensure TV stations get fairly compensated for the retransmission of their signals,” read a joint statement issued last September. “Because it is a big and bold idea, Local Choice deserves more discussion and a full consideration by policymakers, and the committee may not have time to include it as part of STAVRA. Rockefeller and Thune are focused on passing STAVRA next week, and continuing to work with their colleagues on Local Choice.”

After the sudden insertion of Local Choice into a satellite television bill, an orange glow filled the night sky at 1771 N Street in Washington. It was Gordon Brown’s hair on fire. Brown is president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the very powerful lobby representing television stations and networks. But that night, he sounded exactly like a cable guy.

“NAB opposes this proposal because it eliminates the basic [cable] tier upon which millions rely for access to lifeline information,” Brown responded in a statement. “It proposes a broadcast a-la-carte scheme that will lead to higher prices and less program diversity. Furthermore, STAVRA appears to confer unfettered and unprecedented authority for government intervention into private marketplace negotiations.”

8679-2_NAB_logos_csThe cable industry has fought its own battle against a-la-carte on exactly the same ground Brown was now occupying.

Rockefeller later claimed he was only poking the Broadcast TV Bear to provoke a response, and he got one. The idea of Local Choice was stripped out of the bill by the fall. Rockefeller was reduced to saving face.

“What we wanted to do was introduce those ideas,” Rockefeller later told The Hill. “We made it sound like it was the focus of the bill, and K Street just went crazy, which is always good. But we knew that we’d have to take it out.”

Yes they did, after the NAB and their allies launched a major PR campaign against Local Choice, attracting over 130,000 comments against the plan.

Polka

Polka

But Rockefeller knew the idea was not going away.

“As people get a taste of being able to say ‘I only watch 10 channels so I should only pay for 10 channels,’ they’re going to love that. It’s going to spread like wildfire,” Rockefeller said.

Fast forward to this spring and it was back to business as usual. Retransmission consent disputes yanked several networks and stations off cable systems, providers mailed their annual rate increase notices, and the cable industry’s popularity and reputation with customers now rivaled ISIS.

Much of the collateral damage (apart from the collective emptying of your wallet) continues to be felt by America’s smallest cable operators that cannot negotiate for what passes as fair and reasonable programming rates from networks like ESPN and CBS. They cannot qualify for volume discounts that are so compelling, it drove AT&T (U-verse TV) into the arms of DirecTV just to get enough subscribers to knock a few more cents off the monthly price of regional sports channels. Only the biggest players in the game have the power and get the savings.

Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association (ACA), the other cable trade association representing the interests of small, often family owned cable systems, may not have the most power but he could have the strongest argument against the status quo. While the National Association of Broadcasters spent tens of thousands of dollars arguing today’s retransmission consent system works just fine, some of America’s smaller TV stations apparently didn’t read the NAB’s talking points.

GotchaThe “TV Station Group,” an informal collective of small market TV stations seeking a renewal of their carriage contract with DirecTV has been stonewalled by DirecTV for months. Last week, the station owners filed a complaint with the FCC asking them to stop or block AT&T’s merger with DirecTV until the satellite provider agreed to negotiate in good faith. It was clear from their filing DirecTV’s idea of negotiation is to send ‘take it or leave it’ nastygrams to the TV stations, serving markets like Spokane, Wash., and Yuma, Ariz. The only thing clear from the back and forth is that DirecTV has no doubt it can squash the stations like little bugs:

[W]e will not fall victim to your silly and obvious tactics to try to audit our retrans deals so you can see them all. We did not ask you to send to us your supposed rates, and your unilateral decision to do so doesn’t give you the right to see our other deals. But trust [us], no other station group – especially small groups such as Northwest – are paid by DIRECTV nearly what you have proposed, let alone what your sheet says.

A few weeks later, in response to another request from the broadcasters, DirecTV scolded them like a misbehaving teenager:

To repeat yet again, DIRECTV is not going to get pulled into your transparent trap to define what is ‘market’ by seeing our other deals. That is a precedent we will not set, including for NW. Please do not ask again.

“Judging from the TV stations’ complaint, it is evident that the retransmission consent market is broken and not working for these broadcasters any better than for cable operators,” Polka wrote in a press release issued today. “The time has come for these TV stations and others that have also filed good faith complaints to step out from NAB’s long shadow and join ACA in supporting efforts to update the rules and equip them with a strong referee that can help protect consumers and competition when negotiations break down.”

Polka continues to advocate letting customers decide whether they want to pay for local stations and cable networks. He argues CBS is already doing that today with its All Access program for broadband customers. In 94 markets, serving 64% of U.S. households, consumers can voluntarily subscribe to a live stream of their local CBS station and access a large 6,500 title on-demand library of CBS content for $5.99 a month.

cbs all accessNobody besides CBS knows how many have agreed to pay for All Access, but executives have told investors they are pleased with how the program is working. Still, Marc DeBevoise, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Digital Media at CBS Interactive knows he walks a very fine line promoting a product that could eventually undermine CBS’s current commitment to today’s retransmission consent system. DeBevoise told The Drum it does not market or intend to offer All Access as an alternative to the current cable model.

“At a high level, our strategy in launching CBS All Access was two-fold. First, to delivery our best fans access to the most CBS content we could on any device at any time – really delivering a service for our ‘superfans,'” DeBevoise said. “Additionally this service enables us to reach ‘cord-nevers’ that want to watch CBS content but don’t have a traditional cable package –a significant audience, with industry estimates ranging from 6.5 to 16 million households.”

But at $5.99 a month, that price may prove too steep for many casual viewers looking only for a show or two. Many viewers now rely on ad-supported Hulu, a project of the major American broadcast networks except CBS. Most Hulu customers watch their favorite network shows for free. The future possibility of paying $6 for each of four major American broadcast networks will likely be seen as out of line, especially by more casual viewers.

But for Polka and ACA member cable systems, the idea that customers will direct their All Access price shock wrath out on CBS, not the cable company, may be worth it.

CBS Introducing a Showtime Broadband-Only Streaming Video Subscription Service

showtimeFollowing the footsteps of HBO Now, CBS Corporation is preparing to offer a broadband-only streaming video version of Showtime.

Variety reports a formal announcement is due this week for the service and just like HBO Now, it will initially launch as an Apple TV exclusive, with other platforms added later.

No information about the depth of the online Showtime on-demand catalog is available yet, but the pricing for the service is: $10.99 a month. It will launch July 12. HBO Now costs $15 a month.

CBS has gotten experience in the streaming video market with its $6/mo CBS All Access service, which offers on-demand viewing of decades of CBS programming and all episodes of current CBS series. In markets where CBS owns its local affiliate, live streaming is also available.

Showtime will also be expanding into Canada for the first time in January, to be made available on Bell Media platforms including Fibe TV and its direct to home satellite service.

This article updated to reflect pricing and launch date of the service.

CBS Launching New Over-the-Air Network: “Decades” Will Feature Classic TV Series from 50s-80s

Phillip Dampier October 22, 2014 Consumer News 6 Comments

cbsMeTV is getting some quasi-competition starting in the second quarter of next year as CBS and Weigel Broadcasting launch “Decades,” a new over-the-air television network that CBS is calling “the ultimate TV time capsule.”

The new network will launch as a digital sub-channel on many CBS-owned local television stations:

  • KCBS Los Angeles
  • KOVR Sacramento
  • KPIX San Francisco
  • KCNC Denver
  • WFOR Miami
  • WTOG Tampa/St. Petersburg
  • WBBM Chicago
  • WJZ Baltimore
  • WBZ Boston
  • WWJ Detroit
  • WCCO Minneapolis
  • WCBS New York
  • KYW Philadelphia
  • KDKA Pittsburgh
  • KTVT Dallas

Weigel will handle affiliation agreements with non-CBS owned stations, most likely CBS affiliates owned by other companies. Weigel already programs MeTV, so the two networks will probably avoid direct duplication of each other, but the formats are expected to be similar.

The agreement gives Weigel expanded access to CBS’ library of produced and acquired classic television shows including I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Cheers, Happy Days and other shows generally out of syndication. Decades will also feature some original programming, such as Decades Retrospectical, that will include clips from CBS News and Entertainment Tonight.

Happy-Days“Decades takes the digital broadcast network platform to a new level,” said Norman H. Shapiro, president of Weigel. “Viewers will ‘Relive, Remember & Relate’ to the events that touched their lives and generations past. The events, themes and programming possibilities are endless.”

“Decades is the most ambitious and creative subchannel programming service that has ever been created,” said Peter Dunn, president, CBS Television Stations. “We are thrilled to partner with Weigel Broadcasting, the leaders in this space, to make smart use of our stations’ spectrums and our companies’ considerable programming assets. This service will be a tremendous new business for CBS and all of the other stations across the country that participate, regardless of their primary network affiliation.”

Decades is CBS’ first serious move into supporting digi-nets on its stations. CBS has been reluctant to allow digital subchannels, which can compromise the picture quality of its primary 1080i HD signal. But as digital compression technology has advanced, the network’s concerns have eased.

Decades will join Antenna TV, Cozi TV, Me-TV, and Retro TV, all of which focus heavily on classic TV shows, as well as This TV, FamilyNet, Bounce TV, and INSP, which also air some classic TV shows.

The growth in digi-nets may be waning, however. In late September, Weigel’s new Heroes & Icons channel devoted to crime and action shows like Cannon, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West, and Wagon Train only managed to pick up a small handful of affiliates, mostly Weigel-owned stations in the midwest. An ambitious project to launch four classic TV channels under the QUAD TV banner – one each for shows from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, was put on indefinite hold in August. The owners blamed uncertainty owing to the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, but the more likely reason is difficulty securing affiliate and carriage agreements at a time when rate sensitivity on cable and channel space on broadcast television are major concerns.

If Aereo Wins Lawsuit, Head of CBS Says He’ll Consider Taking the Network Off the Air

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2014 Consumer News, Online Video 6 Comments

cbsCBS head Les Moonves is ready to take the CBS television network off broadcast television and move it to a pay television platform where he can protect the network’s revenue should the Aereo video streaming service be deemed legal.

Aereo’s fate is likely to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in April, and if it should prevail providing local television signals over streaming video without paying the network for the programming, CBS is prepared to walk away from over 50 years of free over the air television.

“If Aereo should win, which we don’t think will happen, we can go ‘over the top’ with CBS,” Moonves said on Tuesday at an investor conference. “If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, then we will come up with some other way to get them our content and still get paid for it.”

“Over the top” refers to streaming programming over the Internet.

Cable, satellite and telco TV customers would be unaffected because CBS already receives compensation from those pay television venues. But those watching over the air would lose CBS unless they maintained an Internet-based subscription to the network.

Moonves said he will play hardball against any “systems out there that try to hurt us.”

Post TWC-CBS Dispute, Other Networks Preparing to Demand Their Own Increases

cbs twcJust weeks after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled a dispute over retransmission fees, other broadcasters and networks are preparing to make new demands for increased compensation from their cable, satellite, and telco IPTV partners at prices likely to provoke more blackouts.

Despite repeated protestations from Time Warner that over-the-air stations and networks deserve lower fees than cable-only networks, once the two parties went behind closed doors, the cable company quickly agreed to pay considerably more for CBS programming. Sources say CBS made a deal that will run up to five years and includes more than $1.50 in fees per subscriber, up from between 50-85 cents per month, depending on the city served, under the old contract. CBS had asked for about $2 a month. Effectively, the company will earn more than that because Time Warner also agreed to renew both the CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel, which cost extra.

“There is a new template here. Two dollars is the new holy grail,” Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan told Reuters.

Fox was the highest paid network before the CBS deal, collecting close to $1.25 per month per subscriber. ABC receives 50-65 cents and NBC less than that.

Harrigan predicts the other networks will race to raise their own prices, with Time Warner Cable (and others) likely forced to raise rates early next year to cover increased costs.

In the war for compensation, programmers hold most of the leverage.

The Wall Street Journal reports the dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS set new industry precedents on the value of broadcast stations and networks and how their programming is distributed on digital platforms. (2 minutes)

There have already been local station blackouts in 80 cities so far this year, with the likelihood last year’s record of 91 markets will be broken before Thanksgiving. In almost every instance where a popular network is involved, the pay television provider eventually capitulates because of subscriber complaints or cancellations.

Moonves

Moonves

Time Warner Cable admits its dispute with CBS cost the company business, both from prospective new customers going elsewhere and customer disconnects. Time Warner also spent money advertising its side of the dispute and paid to distribute free antennas to affected subscribers.

CBS’ Les Moonves had predicted Time Warner would eventually meet most of the network’s compensation demands before football season arrived. He was right.

“CBS is the winner. Content owners always win these negotiations, it’s just a matter of how much they won,” said Craig Moffett of Moffett Research. “They have all the leverage. Consumers don’t get mad and trade in their channel when these fights drag on. They go looking for a different satellite or telephone company.”

Almost 200,000 Time Warner Cable television customers left during the second quarter, and company officials admit that trend continued during the third quarter as the dispute dragged on. Time Warner Cable is likely to end the year with fewer than 11.5 million video subscribers, a loss of several hundred thousand this year.

Sources say one major sticking point that kept CBS off Time Warner Cable systems for nearly a month wasn’t about money. Instead, it was about digital distribution rights.

Time Warner Cable wanted CBS on its TV Everywhere app TWCTV and was also concerned about CBS selling content to online video streaming competitors that could accelerate cord-cutting.

Time Warner Cable did win permission to offer Showtime on its digital streaming platform and on apps for portable devices. But Time Warner will not get to carry local CBS-owned stations on streaming platforms, a significant blow. The cable company will also have to pay more for streamed and on-demand content.

In the end, CBS got almost everything it wanted and Time Warner Cable was handed back its largely unfulfilled wish list and a bigger, retroactive bill subscribers will eventually have to pay.

“We wanted to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience to our customers,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in defense of the agreement. “While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started.”

Moonves gloated to various trade publications and investors that CBS went unscathed after the month-long dispute.

“Our national ad dollars did not go down,” Moonves told attendees at the recent Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Media Communications & Entertainment Conference. “There were no such things as make-goods and there was no harm done financially to CBS Corporation.”

CBS’ Les Moonves has won his dispute with Time Warner Cable, says Les Moonves in this interview with Bloomberg TV. (10 minutes)

Comcast owns both NBC and the cable companies that carry its local affiliates.

Comcast owns both NBC and the cable companies that carry its local affiliates.

Cable rate increases are not likely to stop with the agreement with CBS. Analysts predict NBC, ABC, and FOX will be seeking similar rates when their contracts come up for renewal. Altogether, every cable, telco IPTV, and satellite subscriber could see rates increase up to $6 a month for the four major American networks.

“Any time one of these larger networks sets the new standard in terms of pricing for their programming, the rest follow,” Justin Nielson, an analyst for SNL Kagan, told Hollywood Reporter. “In most cases it’s been CBS and FOX trailblazing what the rates should be and then ABC and NBC following.”

Comcast-NBC’s Steve Burke is already there. Burke told investors affiliates should be paying 20 to 25 percent more for cable networks such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, CNBC and MSNBC .

“We’re not paid as much as we should be given our rating and positioning by cable and satellite companies,” Burke said. “I see no reason why we won’t sort of draft behind the other broadcast networks and get paid in a similar way.”

Burke predicts NBC will earn between $500 million to $1 billion annually from increased retransmission consent fees comparable to what CBS and FOX receive.

Next week, DISH Networks faces the expiration of their contract with ABC/Disney-owned channels, including the Cadillac-priced ESPN. The outcome of renewal negotiations may serve as an indicator for where rates are headed in the world of retransmission economics.

A growing number of elected officials in Washington are paying attention as they and their constituents live through one programmer blackout after another. At least four pieces of legislation have been introduced to deal with the problem in very different ways, according to Bloomberg News:

The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act

This law, known as STELA, dates to 2004 and gives satellite companies a license to provide local TV stations, just as cable operators do. The current law is set to expire at the end of 2014, with most observers calling its reauthorization a near certainty. The debate is mainly over how “clean” the STELA reauthorization bill will be as it emerges from the legislative process, with the pay TV companies urging lawmakers to address the issue of retransmission disputes. Broadcasters are working for a “clean” bill, written narrowly to address the satellite companies’ immediate needs. “There’s nothing clean about the current retransmission system,” says Brian Frederick, a spokesman for the American Television Alliance, a coalition of pay-TV companies. Two House committees held hearings on the law this week. A final bill and vote are expected next year.

Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment)

Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents much of Silicon Valley, introduced this bill Sept. 9 aimed at ending blackouts. “Recurring TV blackouts, including the 91 U.S. markets impacted in 2012, have made it abundantly clear that the FCC needs explicit statutory authority to intervene when retransmission disputes break down,” Eshoo said in a press release. (The FCC gets involved now only if one party accuses the other of negotiating in bad faith.) The bill would unbundle broadcast stations from a cable package and prohibit a broadcaster from requiring a pay TV operator to take affiliated cable channels to obtain more popular channels. That issue is at the heart of why Cablevision sued Viacom in February, following a contentious negotiation.

Eshoo’s bill would also require the FCC to study programming costs for sports networks in the top 20 regional sports markets. The rising fees for sports programming—led by ESPN—is considered one of the major influences behind rising cable bills and the power that content creators such as Disney hold in negotiations. Cable companies have praised Eshoo’s bill, while broadcasters are not fans. Don’t expect to see it get far in a Republican-led House.

Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013

This bill, introduced in May by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), would end the long era of the cable television bundle, that phenomenon by which you pay for hundreds of channels and find yourself watching only about two dozen, or fewer. This summer, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal signed on as a Democratic co-sponsor, but there’s been no similar sponsors on the House side. Blumenthal explained his support of the bill in an August interview with the Hollywood Reporter:

“What I hear from cable consumers overwhelmingly is, ‘give us freedom of choice. Don’t make us pay for something we don’t want and won’t watch. Why am I paying for—you name a channel you don’t like or five or ten or them—just so I can watch the one I do want.’ That’s overwhelmingly the sentiment of people who buy this product. So this bill just gives voice and force to that sentiment.”

Next Generation Television Marketplace Act

This bill from Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, and former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, also a Republican, dates to December 2011 and would deregulate the entire television market, top to bottom. It would repeal compulsory copyright licenses, the legal mechanism by which content owners are required to let pay TV companies carry their programs, if they are paid a fee for the content. The bill, which would also dismantle the system of retransmission fees, is essentially an exercise in carrying free-market ideology to its logical conclusion. The problem? It would require a countless number of individual deal negotiations—any radio or television station that wanted to carry programming (i.e., all of them)—would need to strike deals with every programmer, yielding an inefficient system that would likely prove unworkable. Lawyers would love the bill, but don’t expect it ever to pass Congress.

In fact, none of these bills are expected to pass through both the gridlocked House and Senate this year.

CNBC also talked with CBS’ Les Moonves about CBS’ views towards compensation and distributing content online. (13 minutes)

Time Warner Cable: Our Condolences to Verizon if They Signed the CBS Deal We Rejected

Phillip Dampier August 28, 2013 Consumer News, Online Video, Time Warner Cable, Video 5 Comments
witmer

Witmer

If what Time Warner Cable claims is true, the stalemate that has kept CBS content away from subscribers for four weeks may be less about the money and more about CBS’ desire to control your viewing experience.

Melinda Witmer, TWC’s chief video and content officer, reports CBS is demanding daunting new restrictions in their proposed renewal contract, including requiring customers to “register their television sets” with CBS before being able to turn them on.

Witmer said CBS’ demands also include new powers over DVR capabilities, which means CBS could possibly prevent customers from fast-forwarding through commercials or even block the recording and/or storage of certain programs without network permission.

“CBS announced that they signed a deal with Verizon (FiOS TV) and has suggested that they offered us the same deal Verizon just signed,” Witmer said. “All I can say is our condolences to Verizon if they signed the deal CBS put in front of us. I hope for Verizon’s sake that they didn’t sign that, but if they did I’m glad for us because we’ll compete that much better against them when we finish our deal.”

Cable operators are seeking expanded rights from programmers as customer viewing habits evolve. Among the most important are those that would allow online and on-demand streaming of programming to authenticated cable subscribers.

Time Warner Cable has invested considerable resources in its online viewing platforms for PC’s, smartphones, and tablets, providing most of the TWC lineup on those portable devices. But the service has been largely limited in-home viewing because the cable company is having trouble securing permission to stream most of that content for those on the go.

Time Warner Attempts to Placate Impacted Customers

twcAlthough Time Warner Cable is crediting customers for the loss of Showtime/The Movie Channel, blocked by the cable operator while the impasse continues, Time Warner is not giving any automatic refunds for the loss of CBS basic or broadcast programming and networks taken off the cable dial. CBS-owned Smithsonian TV is the most affected basic cable channel nationwide. Some customers who pay extra for Smithsonian as part of an added-cost HD Tier often known as “TWCHD Pass” have gotten service credits upon request.

Time Warner Cable is giving out free over-the-air antennas to customers in cities where local CBS-owned stations have been taken off the cable lineup.

Time Warner Cable has a limited quantity of free basic indoor antennas available for customers at TWC retail locations in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles/Desert Cities, New York City, Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisc. In addition, TWC has partnered with Best Buy in those cities to provide $20 toward the purchase of any in-stock broadcast antenna at select Best Buy store locations. The cable company has published a list of retail locations where antennas are available as long as supplies last. Limit one per customer and installation is your responsibility.

Radio Shack has also taken advantage of the situation by slashing prices on an AntennaCraft Amplified Omnidirectional HDTV Antenna, now available online for $37.49 – a 25 percent discount. Best Buy is supporting Time Warner Cable’s position in the CBS dispute. Radio Shack is not, telling customers its antennas make it easy to “cut the cable.”

Time Warner is appeasing tennis fans with enhanced coverage of the 2013 US Open Tennis Championship Series with a free preview of The Tennis Channel running Aug. 26 through Sept. 9.

The blackout is also keeping Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Earthlink (supplied by either cable operator) broadband customers from watching CBS content online.

If you now receive this channel Here’s how your Time Warner Cable video service is impacted
CBS from NYC, LA, Dallas-Ft Worth, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh -The CBS channel has been removed from your lineup
-CBS Primetime on Demand is now unavailable
-StartOver and LookBack services on all CBS-owned stations are unavailable
CBS from any city other than the ones listed above -CBS Primetime on Demand is now unavailable
-StartOver and LookBack services on local CBS affiliate stations are unavailable
Flix Flix is now unavailable
The Movie Channel The Movie Channel and The Movie Channel on Demand are now unavailable; TWC is providing replacement programming from Encore on a temporary preview basis–look in your guide for channel numbers.
Showtime Showtime, all its associated multiplex channels, and Showtime on Demand are now unavailable; TWC is providing replacement programming from Starz on a temporary preview basis–look in your guide for channel numbers.
Smithsonian Channel Smithsonian and Smithsonian on Demand are now unavailable

The Federal Communications Commission said it is trying to resolve the fee dispute from Washington.

“The commission is engaged at the highest levels with the respective parties and working to bring the impasse to an end,” Justin Cole, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “We urge all parties to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so consumers can access the programming they rely on and are paying for.”

But acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn also admitted the FCC has few powers to intervene and compel an agreement.

Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer, head of the team negotiating with CBS, suggests the network is demanding unprecedented control over your viewing experience — a deal breaker for the cable operator.  (6 minutes)

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