TWC said to be not so concerned about consumers


Dennis WhartonTo hear Time Warner Cable, you’d think a cable television subscription would be the most economical thing in the world if local broadcasters were not breaking the cable giant’s back with outrageous retransmission fees. The truth is quite the opposite, says NAB’s Dennis Wharton.

Wharton, the NAB’s  Executive Vice President of Communications penned a blog post called “Who Are They Kidding?”

Here it is in its entirety.

Time Warner Cable executives would have you believe they’ve become terribly concerned about rising cable rates. So much so that the company is bankrolling a “pro-consumer” group called the American Television Alliance, an organization that is urging “reform” of retransmission consent laws enacted to allow local broadcasters to be fairly compensated for the most popular programming on television.

Time Warner Cable wants you to think that broadcasters are the cause of rising cable rates. Never mind that broadcaster retrans fees amount to a paltry 2 cents on every cable dollar. Never mind that retransmission consent fees allow broadcasters to fund local news, emergency weather warnings, and lifesaving coverage of natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy and the Oklahoma tornadoes.

And never mind that the FCC has noted that the annual percentage increase in cable rates has actually slowed since the mid-2000s, when broadcasters began realizing modest retrans compensation from cable systems who built monopoly-priced businesses on the backs of local TV signals.

Two items surfaced today that are noteworthy when considering whether to accept the notion of a warm and fuzzy “pro-consumer” Time Warner Cable. Broadband DSL reports the company cares so much about consumers that it is has jacked up its monthly modem rental fee by 20%. Moreover, Time Warner Cable is socking first-time modem users with a $20 fee just for the privilege of becoming a customer.

And Deadline reports that a group of Southern California consumers has sued Time Warner Cable in LA Superior Court over the company’s plan to bilk customers as much as $5 per subscriber per month to help pay for its $8 billion programming rights deal with the LA Dodgers.

Bottom line: As the Broadband DSL Reports story and LA consumer group lawsuit suggest, it is a fairy tale to think of Time Warner Cable as anything more than a business swimming in cash and desperate to hold onto mammoth profit margins.

Time Warner Cable is a lot of things, but “pro-consumer” is not one.