Time Warner Cable ready to fight high program costs
Time Warner Cable, the normally placid No.2 U.S. cable operator, is getting ready for a fight with its programming partners at the cable networks and broadcasters over rising affiliate fees. In truth, TWC has always been ready for a fight with the programmers. This time, it wants to make the first move and get its 14 million subscribers behind it.
The New York cable operator is launching an ad campaign “on behalf of its customers” to target what it sees as unfair price demands by programmers. It argues that these price demands, which usually come around this time of year at the end of programming contracts, can sometimes be as much as 300 percent increases. TWC says programmers make the demands “secure in the knowledge that video distributors are the ones who have to pass those costs along to customers and take the blame.”
So what’s Time Warner Cable going to do about it? They’re going to launch a website — yes, a website with the catchy URL: www.rolloverorgettough.com. News Corp, Sinclair Broadcasting and cable networks must be quaking in their collective fee-hiking boots.
(For the uninitiated: One way for companies to make money from their shows is to charge cable operators for the privilege of distributing them. Programmers like to raise those fees every so often. When cable operators resist, shows you like have a way of being held for ransom and sometimes disappearing for a while.)
Time Warner Cable’s website will allow customers to give their feedback and will be supported by ads in newspapers, TV and the Web.
“We want them to know why we fight so hard on these issues – if we Roll Over, they pay the price. If we Get Tough, they may lose their favorite shows until we reach a reasonable agreement.” said TWC CEO Glenn Britt in the press release.
It’s not the first time Time Warner Cable has tried to be principled about not overpaying for content. You might remember the great “Why is SpongeBob crying?” campaign of Dec 2008 when Viacom and TWC fell out over rising carriage fees.
Britt’s easiest solution to avoid revisiting this issue every year might not be to build websites, but to buy content companies like its larger counterpart Comcast is trying to do with NBC Universal. If nothing else it will give TWC more leverage in negotiations with some content makers — and they’d have to play nice.