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Congressman-Elect Brindisi Calls on Regulators To Put Their Foot Down on Spectrum

Brindisi

Congressman-elect Anthony Brindisi has a message for the New York State Public Service Commission: stop giving Charter Spectrum extensions.

“Today, I am asking the Public Service Commission to make Feb. 11 the absolute final deadline for Charter Spectrum to present its plan to give customers the service they deserve or it is time to show them the exit door here in New York State,” Brindisi said at a press event. ““No one’s losing their cable. They’re not just going to turn the switch off and leave. The would have to bring in another provider. I would actually like to see a few providers so people can have some choices in their internet and cable providers. Competition, I believe, is a good thing.”

Brindisi is reacting to repeated extensions of the PSC’s order requiring Charter Spectrum to file an orderly exit plan with state regulators so that an alternate cable provider can be found. Private negotiations between the PSC staff and Charter officials have resulted in several deadline extensions, the latest granted until after the new year. Observers expect Charter and the PSC will settle the case, with the cable company agreeing to pay a fine and fulfilling its commitments in return for the Commission rescinding its July order canceling Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable.

Brindisi, a Democrat from the Utica area, made Charter Spectrum a prominent campaign issue, and even ran ads against the cable company that Spectrum initially refused to air.

Brindisi says he would be okay with Spectrum remaining in the state as long as it meets its agreements, but he is not very optimistic that will happen.

“Number one — they committed that they were going to expand their service into underserved areas,” Brindisi said. “Number two — they weren’t going to raise rates and they have not complied or lived up to their agreement so I think action has to be taken.”

WUTR in Utica reports Congressman-elect Anthony Brindisi’s patience is wearing thin on Charter Spectrum. (0:48)

AT&T Launches 5G Service at the “Go Away” Price of $499 + $70/Mo with a 15 GB Cap

AT&T this morning switched on its 5G wireless mobile network in 12 cities around the country, making it the first U.S. provider to launch portable 5G service for wireless devices.

Like Verizon, AT&T is in no hurry to sign up new customers for 5G service. Instead, it will only be available “in dense urban areas” for a handful of businesses and consumers invited to sample the service for free over the next 90 days.

“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead.”

Because cell phones equipped with 5G are not yet widely available, AT&T will sell its 5G service with a NETGEAR® Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot device that will go on sale in the spring for $499. AT&T also intends to extract more money from wireless customers for its premium 5G experience. When service debuts, a 5G compatible data plan will start at $70 a month, including a 15GB data cap.

AT&T is not saying how fast its 5G network will actually be, only predicting it will be slower than the theoretical maximum speed of 1.2 Gbps, assuming nobody was using it. At an investor conference in early December, witnesses reported speed tests were averaging closer to 140 Mbps, which falls far short of the 5G Gigabit Hype the tech media has been breathlessly reporting.

AT&T’s launch switched on 5G service from selected city cell towers serving Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio, and Waco, Tex.. Over the next six months, AT&T plans to switch on 5G-equipped towers in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

AT&T’s 5G service will use traditional cellular frequency bands, and will effectively look like an incremental upgrade from 4G LTE. In real world performance terms, expect noticeably faster wireless speeds, but nothing close to what Verizon is offering with its fixed wireless 5G network, which relies on millimeter wave frequencies to deliver much faster service. AT&T’s 5G is portable, Verizon’s is not (for now). AT&T executives have been repeatedly skeptical about offering fixed wireless 5G.

AT&T hypes its forthcoming 5G network into the stratosphere. (1:44)

The Return of Court TV: Law and Order Networks Struggle to Gain Carriage

Phillip Dampier December 11, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Video No Comments

In the era of cord-cutting, getting a new, independently owned cable network on cable lineups can be an exercise in futility.

With most new channel additions coming as part of renewal agreements with major cable network owners or sports teams, launching a new 24-hour cable network and getting it on the lineup has never been so difficult. That isn’t stopping a relaunch of Court TV — a well-known former cable network that literally burned its logo into some television sets that were reliably tuned to coverage of the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, which ran from January-October, 1995.

“Court TV was a top-20 cable network and at the height of its popularity when the network was taken off the air in 2008,” said Jonathan Katz, CEO of Katz Networks. “Today, while consumer interest in the real-life drama of true-crime programming is at an all-time high, there is no dedicated daily court coverage on television. We expect the new Court TV to fill that void on cable, satellite, over-the-air and over-the-top.”

A promotional video for Court TV, returning in May, 2019 (0:44)

Katz Networks, a division of E.W. Scripps Co., has acquired the rights to the Court TV name and other intellectual property from its old owner, Time Warner (Entertainment). That includes over 100,000 hours of pre-recorded programming and trial coverage in the Court TV archives. The new venture has hired Vinnie Politan, a former Court TV presenter, as its lead anchor. The new Court TV has also hired back some of its old employees who either left the network or transitioned to its replacement – Tru TV.

The new Court TV will run 24 hours a day, everyday, and is expected to concentrate on live coverage of high-profile trials.

The thought of bringing back Court TV has not been enough to attract much attention from the cable industry. When the network launches in May 2019, it is expected to achieve coverage in 25% of cable homes at best. Most viewers will be able to watch Court TV as a digital subchannel offered by a local over-the-air station. Katz already specializes in running digital sub-networks, including Bounce (African-American targeted channel) and Laff (comedy).

Multichannel News reports several station owner groups will carry Court TV, giving it coverage of about half the country at launch:

Dan Abrams hosting a show on the Law & Crime Trial Network

Tribune Broadcasting will carry Court TV in 22 markets, including New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; Denver; St. Louis; Seattle-Tacoma, Washington; and Sacramento, Calif.

Eight Scripps markets will carry Court TV, including Tampa, Fla.; Detroit; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Las Vegas; Tulsa, Okla.; Green Bay, Wis. and Tucson, Ariz.

Entravision Communications’ 10 Court TV markets include Boston; Orlando, Fla. and Wichita, Kan.

Univision Communications will carry the network in San Antonio; Albuquerque, N.M. and Bakersfield, Calif.

Citadel Communications will air Court TV in Providence, R.I.

Court TV already has at least one minor competitor. Dan Abrams, a former well-known Court TV personality who now hosts the popular A&E show Live PD, also runs the Law & Crime Trial Network, which relies primarily on live video streaming online to attract viewers. While the network has garnered little attention since it began streaming multiple feeds of live trial coverage over its website, YouTube, and Facebook Live, it did attract A+E Networks, which announced its involvement in the project in March, 2018.

Like Court TV, Abrams’ Law & Crime depends on live trial coverage during the day and analysis and documentary-style programming at night. So far, it is free to watch. Its future may be overshadowed by the higher profile return of Court TV, however, unless A+E bundles it into its suite of networks offered to cable and satellite providers.

Dan Abrams pitches his Law & Crime Trial Network to potential partners. (1:29)

Spectrum Strikers Launch Website to Teach Consumers How to Cut Cable’s Cord

Phillip Dampier December 10, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Video 2 Comments

A new union-sponsored website promises consumers they can find a better deal with a different video provider.

(Courtesy: Cut the Cord on Spectrum)

Many of the more than 1,800 Charter/Spectrum workers in the New York City area, on strike since early 2017, have teamed up in a new campaign to encourage customers to cut cable’s cord and disconnect service.

“We all know a typical cable/internet bill with Spectrum runs about $164 – 194 (can’t forget those equipment rental fees, DVR fees & random bill increases!),” the Cut the Cord on Spectrum website says. “By cutting the cord on Spectrum and signing up for streaming services – many of which offer Live TV options including all your favorite cable network and sports channels – you can cut your bill down to as low as $57.99/month!”

The website offers basic advice on alternative providers that stream video programming over the internet, including general pricing and included features. The website implies choosing any other provider is probably better than sticking with Spectrum.

“Spectrum customers – along with the N.Y. Attorney General’s office – have a long list of gripes with Spectrum Cable,” the site claims. “With an income over $490 million and CEO Tom Rutledge earning a salary of $98.5 million, it’s clear that Spectrum Cable is fleecing its customers, overcharging for horrible service while raking in huge profits.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 is behind the latest digital effort to make life difficult for Charter Communications. The union plans to spend “tens of thousands of dollars” on online ads targeting zip codes where Spectrum provides cable service, according to union officials.

The union is getting significant support from politicians downstate, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who blasted Charter at a well-attended union rally in front of Charter’s headquarters on Wednesday in Manhattan.

“[Spectrum’s] CEO in 2016 made $100 million. The COO of Charter Spectrum, $50 million. The company made $15 billion,” Cuomo told the audience. “How dare you abuse the hardworking men and women that built that company and put the money in your pocket?”

The governor also continued his ongoing attack on NY1 – Spectrum News, a company-owned 24-hour news channel. Many union-supporting politicians have refused to appear on NY1, accusing the channel of bias.

“You want to know what’s interesting about their news organization? It has a very selective memory, their news organization,” Cuomo said. “You know what their news organization never covered? The fact that the state of New York is trying to take away their franchise and kick them out of New York. You know what their news organization failed to cover? The fact that 2,000 Local 3 members were kicked to the street and they’re rallying for two years for fairness and decency.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted Charter Spectrum at a rally held Wednesday in front of Spectrum’s corporate headquarters in New York City. (15:19)

 

Amazon Bids for Disney’s 22 Fox Regional Sports Networks

Phillip Dampier November 20, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Video No Comments

Amazon wants to be a major player in live regional sports television, aggressively bidding for the 22 regional sports network that Disney acquired from 21st Century Fox, according to a report from CNBC.

The undisclosed bid covers all of the Fox Sports networks plus YES – the New York Yankees network.

If successful, the e-commerce company would win broadcasting and streaming rights for 44 pro teams from the NBA (basketball), NHL (hockey), and MLB (baseball).

Amazon’s competing bidders include Wall Street funds and broadcasters, including Apollo Global Management, KKR, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna. The New York Yankees are also interested in taking a majority interest in YES, the cable network that features its games.

As part of a major asset sale, Fox sold many of its television and movie properties to Disney, but the federal government ordered Disney to divest its interest in Fox’s regional sports networks to win approval of the deal. There is a possibility Fox may attempt to buy back its sports networks. John Malone, a long time cable industry insider, predicts Fox is the most likely winner if they do bid, having sold the networks to Disney for $15 billion and potentially buying them back for as little as $8 billion.

Should Amazon win control of the regional sports networks, it will become an even larger player in live sports entertainment. Amazon Prime began streaming NFL games to subscribers on Thursday evenings in 2017, reportedly paying the NFL $65 million per year under the deal.

CNBC reports Amazon is bidding to take control of 22 Fox regional sports networks now owned by Disney. (4:44)

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