Monday, March 08, 2010


ABC-Cablevision Dispute Causes Pain

Last night, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a segment on the ABC-Cablevision controversy for CBS Network News. I was literally walking out of church when I turned on my cell phone and got the call. I had to go home, change clothes and do some quick fact-checking online and be at CBS studios on the West Side all within two hours. The fun part about the interview (thanks to a very smart producer named Kim) was that we had to do two versions - one if the NYC black out would continue throughout the evening and another if a deal was struck to air the Academy Awards to Cablevision's 3.1 million subscribers in New York and other parts of the Metropolitan Area. Needless to say, it was a good thing that we did the alternate version because the show was aired twenty some odd minutes after it started.

It was (and is) my opinion that this kind of squabble will happen again. It will happen around a major television event where the ratings are large and it can happen in any part of the country. The pattern has been set and people know how to create the controversy to their best advantage.

It's really a shame that it happens at all. Television used to be free, an American privilege or right that we didn't have to pay for. When the news hit that there was going to be a blackout, stores that sell digital antennas (priced from $9.99 to over $150) were packed. Once again, the hard-working consumer felt some economic pain by being forced to buy something that was unnecessary or pay more to change their cable system. A local Best Buy had lines around the building before it opened yesterday morning. They sold every digital antenna in the store. Verizon's FIOS reportedly got a lot of good reaction to their $75 discount to sign up right away. If there was an opportunity to make money out of this contract dispute (which started to get ugly), you bet someone took advantage of that opportunity.

I was once a trustee on a public broadcasting network. When I learned that HDTV was being mandated to convert its production to all digital by a fixed date and the commercial networks were to follow soon thereafter, I predicted something like this was inevitable. It got to the point where I stepped down from the Board as a result.

Regardless, it's here and will not change. The only thing that will change is that more situations like this will happen again. To see the clip, cut and paster the link below.

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