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Cable One Spinning Away From Graham Family In Likely Move Towards Eventual Sale

Phillip Dampier November 18, 2014 Cable One, Competition, Consumer News, Rural Broadband No Comments

cableoneCable One’s history as a former part of the Washington Post and its publishers — the Graham family — will come to an end next year as it is spun off to shareholders, positioned for a quick sale as the march towards consolidation of the cable industry continues.

The board of directors of Graham Holdings authorized company management to spin-off the cable company in a tax-free transaction. Many industry analysts believe that is a prelude to maximizing shareholder value by selling the cable operator to a larger cable operator, most likely Charter Communications.

Cable One serves just under 500,000 customers in rural markets in 19 states. The company struggled in 2014 with high-profile battles over programming costs, notably with Viacom, that has led to channel blackouts running nearly seven months. Cable One’s small footprint has put the cable company at a disadvantage, unable to qualify for deep volume discounts for cable programming. Frequent competitor AT&T U-verse has taken a toll on the cable company’s video subscribers, down 15% since the fall of 2013. Cable One spent much of 2014 investing in network upgrades, particularly to improve its newly prioritized broadband service.

The news boosted shares of Graham Holdings stock, increasing in value as much as 12% to $886.05 per share late last week. Shareholders are positioned to benefit the most from a sale of the company, which could fetch as much as $2.5 billion in a sale. The most likely buyer is Charter Communications, which serves similar-sized communities in the central and southern United States and is ready to grow larger with acquisitions of smaller companies like Cable One.

Online Access to Viacom Programming Blocked for Cable ONE Customers

Phillip Dampier May 1, 2014 Cable One, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

cableoneViacom has blocked website content for Cable ONE customers in an escalating dispute with the cable company over the cost of the programmer’s cable networks.

Cable ONE dropped 15 Viacom channels from its cable systems nationwide April 1 claiming Viacom’s contract renewal price was unreasonable. Subscribers found a way around the dispute by accessing Viacom streamed content online. This week, Viacom closed that loophole and blocked access to all streaming content for Cable ONE subscribers.

“Cable One has chosen to no longer carry Viacom programming and, as a result, it is no longer available to Cable One customers in any form,” Viacom said in a terse statement.

All 730,000 Cable ONE customers in 19 states found the Viacom networks replaced on the cable lineup with alternative programming from BBC America, Sprout, The Blaze, Hallmark Channel, National Geographic, Investigation Discovery, TV One and SundanceTV.

Cable ONE is used to playing hardball with programmers and dropped Time Warner-owned Turner Network programming from its systems for three weeks last fall over a similar dispute, now resolved.

There is no word about the current status of negotiations between Viacom and Cable ONE.

 

Viacom Demands 100% Rate Increases for Hundreds of Small Cable Systems, Military Bases

viacom networksSmall cable systems across the country and on overseas military bases are being granted hourly reprieves that are keeping up to 24 Viacom-owned cable channels on the air after negotiations to extend an agreement with their program buyer stalled.

Cable operators belonging to the National Cable TV Cooperative, which represents independent cable systems on cable programming matters, report Viacom is demanding an unprecedented 100 percent rate increase for its networks and a guaranteed rate hike of 10% annually on each of its channels.

Viacom’s demands would cost each subscriber at least $4 a month, noted Jack Capparell, general manager of Service Electric’s cable system in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Service Electric is a private, family owned cable business with 250,000 subscribers in central and northeastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey.

The impasse also affects cable systems serving American military bases. Americable has notified subscribers in Yokosuka, Atsugi, Iwakuni, and Sasebo, Japan Viacom was likely to cut off 10 of its cable channels to military families sometime today. Allied Telesis, which offers service to Air Force bases in Japan is also expected to lose programming.

cableoneNCTC members complain Viacom requires cable systems to carry nearly all of its lineup, including lesser-known channels few customers have even heard of, much less want. Even if a cable system chooses not to air a Viacom channel, Viacom’s contracts require cable providers to pay for them if they want to carry Viacom’s most popular networks.

Some cable systems are breaking away from NCTC’s negotiations and opening one on one talks with Viacom. Metrocast secured an agreement for its customers earlier today by negotiating directly with Viacom.

viacomFor most affected cable operators, there is a ‘wait and see what happens’ approach. Others, including Cable ONE, have already moved to replace the Viacom networks with other channels.

“Viacom asked for a rate increase greater than 100%, despite the fact that viewing is down on 12 of their 15 networks – some by more than 30% since 2010,” said Cable ONE. “We asked Viacom to either reduce their rates or allow us to drop some of their less popular networks to reduce the total cost. They refused these reasonable requests.”

Logo_Service-ElectricEarlier today, Cable ONE didn’t wait for Viacom to pull the plug. They pulled it themselves.

“Cable ONE has let these networks go and expects to add many top-rated networks you’ve requested and expand several other highly requested networks to our most popular level of service. Some of the new networks include BBC America, Sprout, Investigation Discovery, the Blaze, Hallmark Channel, National Geographic, TV One, Sundance, and more,” said the company, which expects to publish a full list of the new networks on Wednesday.

Viacom responded with a news release tailored for each affected provider:

GCI_Color_LogoWe are offering Service Electric a double-digit discount off of our standard rate card. It is a better deal than HUNDREDS of other TV providers in the country have agreed to. We have been actively trying to get a deal done with Service Electric for months and they have refused to negotiate in any meaningful way. And now, on top of this, Service Electric is throwing out numbers which simply aren’t true. Our expiring deal with Service Electric is nearly five years old. In that time, we have been great partners and given Service Electric more channels, more on demand content and access to our content beyond the TV – at no additional cost. We don’t understand why Service Electric has chosen to negotiate in this manner. And now, as a result of their lack of interest in coming to a mutually beneficial agreement, you are at risk of losing 19 Viacom networks. We are serious about getting a deal done.

Virtually the entire state of Alaska is also affected.

“We’ve unified to fight for Alaskans and to work toward a fair, long-term agreement that keeps prices stable for our customers,” said Paul Landes, GCI senior vice president. “Viacom wants a rate increase that is 40 times that of the rate of inflation. Alaska pay TV providers, along with 700 small to mid-sized operators nationally, are saying ‘no’ to Viacom’s take all 26 channels or nothing demands.”

GCI is joined by Alaskan providers MTA and KPU in the dispute.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Cable ONE Viacom Channels Removed New Channels Added 4-1-14.mp4

Cable ONE released this video earlier today informing customers they were dropping Viacom networks. (1:00)

Cable ONE Catchup: Free Upload Speed Upgrades, But Usage Caps Persist

THE Internet Overcharger

Cable ONE’s boost in cable infrastructure investment is paying dividends for its broadband customers with new upstream speed upgrades.

“Our customers have expressed a need for faster upload speeds and we’re committed to listening to our customers and delivering the latest products and technical advancements while maintaining the highest level of reliability and customer care,” said Joe Felbab, Cable ONE vice president of marketing.

The details:

  • 50/2Mbps Streaming Plan gets a slight bump to 3Mbps upload speed;
  • 60/2Mbps Premier Plan gets upload speed doubled to 4Mbps;
  • 70/2Mbps Ultra Plan gets a triple boost to 6Mbps.

To activate the new upload speeds, reset your cable modem by briefly unplugging it.

Cable ONE's promotions often only last three months before increasing to the regular, undisclosed a-la-carte price. Modem lease or purchase is extra.

Cable ONE’s promotions often only last three months before increasing to the regular, undisclosed a-la-carte price. Modem lease or purchase is extra.

In June, Cable ONE scrapped its confusing consumption billing scheme and replaced it with standard usage caps that our readers report are unevenly enforced.

cable_one_crewThe 1.5Mbps, 5Mbps, 8Mbps, 10Mbps, 12Mbps, & 50Mbps services (some plans grandfathered for existing customers) have a cap of 300GB per billing cycle, while the 60Mbps and 70Mbps services respectively have 400 and 500GB data caps per billing cycle. Surfing Internet has a 50GB cap.

While 6Mbps upload speed is slightly better than what Time Warner Cable and AT&T U-verse customers get, Cable ONE remains well behind companies like Comcast and Verizon FiOS.

Cable ONE in April announced a two-year, $60 million network upgrade across 42 cable systems in its mostly rural footprint to enhance reliability and deliver faster Internet service. Upstream speeds are the most difficult to increase for cable broadband providers because the DOCSIS standard was designed to deliver fast download speeds.

Earlier this month, Cable ONE adopted TiVo for its new Whole Home DVR, which offers 650 hours of recording time with four built-in tuners and an Advanced TiVo on-screen guide.

In large parts of its national service area, Cable ONE competes with telephone companies AT&T, CenturyLink, and Windstream.

Cable ONE Drops TruTV, CNN, TCM in Contract Renewal, Turner Networks Drops Cable ONE

Phillip Dampier October 3, 2013 Audio, Cable One, Consumer News Comments Off

cableone_tdc2Cable ONE customers nationwide lost eight Turner Networks channels yesterday, despite the fact the cable company has a signed contract with Turner to pay for some of the networks that have gone dark.

“In an extraordinary act of retaliation and bullying, Turner Networks removed TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network from all Cable ONE systems without warning, when our prior Turner contract expired on October 1,” said Cable ONE CEO Tom Might. “This happened despite the fact that Cable ONE had signed new contracts and already agreed to pay an enormous nearly 50% rate increase for these three networks.”

Cable ONE was under pressure to carry all eight Turner-owned networks (in turn owned by Time Warner Entertainment) during contract renewal negotiations that included substantial fee increases. The cable company independently decided to boot five “less popular” networks from lineups nationwide: Boomerang, TruTV, TCM, CNN and CNN Headline News. It agreed to keep buying TBS, TNT, and Cartoon.

turner“We signed contracts for TBS, TNT and the Cartoon Network through the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), which allows for the purchase of individual channels rather than the entire bundle of eight,” said Might. “In a disgraceful punitive reaction, Turner Networks refused to recognize the NCTC contracts and immediately de-authorized all Cable ONE systems in order to ‘teach’ Cable ONE a lesson about the power of cable programmers to tie and bundle channels together and force carriage of unwanted bundles.  They refuse to give cable operators or their customers any choice about what they can or cannot buy.”

Turner Networks claims Cable ONE has no authority to buy a slimmed-down package of channels through the NCTC and must negotiate with Turner directly.

Cable ONE will automatically credit its customers for the missing channels. The cable company is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company and serves 730,000 customers in 19 states.

Cable ONE explains to its customers why eight Turner Network-owned channels are now missing from the channel lineup. (2 minutes)
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