Time Warner Cable ready to fight high program costs

November 25, 2009

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.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

[…] MediaFile » Blog Archive » Time Warner Cable ready to fight high … […]

Posted by Clock and Timepiece Decorating Tips | Christian Music Online | Report as abusive

I don’t watch network news anyway and I am sure that some of the second and third rate channels are being forced on cable,satellite,and fios providers as a package from networks like cbs,abc & nbc. Their time has pasted and so has their creditability, if they ever had any. There needs to be more program packages setup for different interest (a move toward lacarte) where a customerdoesn’t have to get a big package with alot of channels they are going to lock out anyway. The customer is paying for service they aren’t using and money wasted. I dropped my service two years ago for this very reason. What was I paying for? P.T.Barnum said it as well as anyone, “Where is a sucker born everminute” and the American public is being suckered by networks overrating their importance when now the public is being feed half truths and misinformation.

Posted by Robert J. Welch | Report as abusive

[…] Warner aren’t going to watch their subscriber numbers keep dropping without a fight. They are launching a new campaign to try and make consumers aware of why their cable bills are so high. Their new site […]

Posted by Time Warner fighting price increases | Cap fight! | Report as abusive

[…] of its customers” to target what it sees as unfair price demands by programmers. Good luck. [Reuters] Published Thursday, November 26, 2009 9:27 […]

Posted by Paid Content : paidContent Quick Hits: Thanksgiving Edition: More News Than You Want | Report as abusive

I am at the highest rate I am willing to pay for cable severices. Please fight any increase in cost from any source.

Posted by Rudy Newman | Report as abusive

I’d like to know which station “at times” raises the rate “as much” as 300%Time Warner should be required to publish the names of the stations and the rates of each station.They are only using this “renogotiation” to not negotiate a rate hike to their subscribers.With the amount of advertising on regular television I can’t imagine cable channels have a legitimate reason for even charging for the distribution. Programming is just the tool used to deliver the advertising.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

I’m disturbed by this campaign. I’m a consumer and frankly Time Warner is the premium cable operator in my area. I pay almost 50% more for their service. They need to roll over and provide the channel lineup they commit too, or simply reduce the channels they offer and make their price competitive. Lets face it. Whatever results are garnered from this study could easily be overinflated. This is nothing more than a sob-story play by them and the customer’s concerns left on their “survey” site will likely be screened and only those aligned with their corporate strategy will be passed along to the broadcasters. Time Warner comes across as a sissy crybaby on a playground during recess in this campaign instead of acting like a national corporation. The Fortune 500 company I work for (Finance industry) would never advertise in such a shady and biased way. Shame on Time Warner. Sell commercials during these slots to make up your losses instead of pandering to customers for unjust sympathy.

Posted by Anthony Stabile | Report as abusive