Cable rights battle shines light on content costs


TBS / Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.MVPDs, like any other business sector, want to keep a lid on expenses, which has led to some hardball between them and broadcasters. But it is a practice of cable-only program suppliers that is likely hurting MVPDs more than broadcast expense, as the battle between Cable ONE and Turner illustrates.

Turner Broadcasting has pulled its content from Cable ONE, which the American Cable Association is taking issue with since TBS is doing so just as the baseball playoffs are beginning.

ACA’s Matt Polka stated, “Turner Broadcasting System’s decision to pull TBS and other cable networks from Cable ONE on the first day of Major League Baseball’s playoff season is deeply disturbing. Turner’s move is yet another brazen example of how a media conglomerate uses the withholding of marquee sports programming from consumers as punishment when a cable operator refuses to force its subscribers to pay for expensive, unpopular and low-rated programming that Turner seeks to bundle with TBS.”

According to Polka, Cable ONE wants only three of the channels associated with Turner and its parent Time Warner (not to be confused with unrelated Time Warner Cable). Cable ONE wants only TBS, TNT and The Cartoon Network.

It wants to drop channels it says carry price tags that are not in line with the viewership they attract, including CNN, CNN Espanol, Headline News, TCM, TruTV and Boomerang.

Polka explained, “But in a vindictive spasm of power, Turner blocked Cable ONE’s right to carry only TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network pursuant to an open agreement Turner makes available to other small cable operators. Turner justified its move based on a tortured explanation that Cable ONE is challenging. That being the case, Turner’s objective here is quite clear – to perpetuate the broken expanded basic dinosaur at all costs and sabotage Cable ONE’s ability to offer consumers programming that they truly desire.”

RBR-TVBR observation: First of all, it wasn’t all that long ago where dropping CNN would have been unimaginable. Amazing.
Our point is that broadcasters provide both viewers and program value, and importantly, are virtually the only source for local news and information on a typical MVPD channel lineup.

That gives broadcasters a moral high ground that other cable-only programmers do not possess.

And further, broadcasters do not generally make any attempt to commandeer additional capacity from an MVPD – the closest they come is negotiating in tandem with an LMA partner, but that becomes one common negotiator working on behalf of two services occupying channels.

In this case, according to ACA, there is one negotiator that want to name its price point while also forcing nine channels on an MVPD when the MVPD only wants three of them.

If you ask us, broadcasters are the least of MVPD programming troubles. Cable bundlers and sports channels are the ones that are driving their expenses up.


  1. I love Hulu Plus and Netflix. Its my paid TV service from now on into eternity. No more dish or umbilical cable. I’m off network and I’m picking my own packages, de facto that is. I watch what I want to watch, when I want it. No Teleshumdo, Al jazeer tv, or any of that pig crap that invests today’s paid services.

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