Friday, February 27, 2009

Cable Industry Fires Back Against Viewer Choice

As We reported last week, (, the Big-5 Media monopolies are finding new ways to distribute their programming and that is breaking the backs of the big cable TV monopolies. Now the cable firms are fighting back, as usual, to restrict the ability of the viewing public to choose where they get their favorite shows...

excerpted from:

Cable operators seek platform to put TV shows online,0,7627468.story

2/25/2009--Wary of the growing number of consumers watching TV shows online for free -- and yet reluctant to upset viewers by yanking shows from the Internet -- the nation's largest cable operators are in talks with media conglomerates to take back control. They would create a platform to release cable TV shows online, but exclusively for paying subscribers....

Gaspin and others familiar with the project said the new service probably would be free to cable TV subscribers. But it's also possible a small fee might be assessed....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here's a very interesting 20 minute video on the cycle of over-consumption and how it's killing our planet.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While Cable System Operators Have Fought Consumer Choice (aka A la carte) Cable, Consumers are taking their dollars elsewhere. In Response, the Big 5 Media Corporations are Dumping Less Lucrative Businesses...

2/18/2009--More and more the entertainment mega corporations, the big 5, ie., Disney, Fox, Viacom-CBS, GE-BBC-Universal and Time-Warner, are dumping their less-profitable cable and satellite distribution arms, while retaining their ultra-profitable broadcasting and content-production divisions (studios and cable channels).

Thanks to the internet reaching as much or more of the country than cable and satellite, a lot of the TV fare we have to pay big bucks for on cable can now be found on free websites sponsored by the Big 5. These sites typically have very few commercials, maybe 2 minutes in a half hour show instead of 8. Some of the best shows are archived forever, such as all 35 years of Saturday Night Live, and all ten years of the Daily Show. What the Big 5 are doing is cutting out the middlemen. And since cable system monopolies have jacked up their rates much higher than the rate of inflation for over 20 years, it's hard to feel too sympathetic for them.

Fox last year traded away the #1 DirectTV satellite service to Liberty Media (an owner of cable channels), and this month reported a $6.4 billion loss.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Time-Warner is spinning off the nation's 2nd largest cable system as an independent company. Given that Time-Warner owns numerous cable channels, which are essentially TV "brands" that they can distribute any way they want, they now can fully embrace giving viewers the maximum number of ways to see their programming, whether it's on the internet, cable, phone company TV or satellite. Their bottom line was really hurting, with their last quarterly loss being $16 billion, so I can understand why they chose to get out of a very competitive business. Contrary to what corporate propagandists say, they don't like competition.

Another big cable system owner, Charter, just declared bankruptcy. Charter is controlled by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft who couldn't transfer his success in software to the cable business.

Controlling all facets of a business, or what is termed "vertical integration", has made a lot of money for stock traders who helped the big guys gobble up additional variations of their core business. The big guys haven't always done as well. AT & T really blew it 10 years ago when they bought TCI, which then owned Liberty Media and the nation's top cable system operator. Very soon they wrote off around $50 billion in losses, and spun off Liberty Media to the public, and sold the cable systems to Comcast. They recovered well (well, maybe not for us) by the Bush administration letting them merge with SBC and BellSouth and buy Cingular Wireless, essentially rendering the U.S. a 2 -phone company country (except for some tiny competitors).


This trend of binging and purging really hit Clear Channel, which hugely overpaid for over 1000 radio stations and hundreds of thousand of billboards 10 years ago and then they lost billions and dumped a lot of stations. CBS likewise gorged on radio stations and billboards and then wrote off a lot of paper-value recently. Time-Warner blew over $100 billion by buying America OnLine and found that Americans weren't that keen about buying everything over the internet.

In the end, we still have 5 mega corporations that produce and distribute most of our news and entertainment. But at least we have more ways to get it, at lower cost, and that's good.

--Rex Frankel, 2/18/2009

A Historical Trend of Sell-offs:

RADIO: ABC sold off much of their news and music radio stations to Citadel Broadcasters in 2006, while keeping their ESPN radio and Radio Disney stations. NBC had sold off their radio division in the 1980's. Only CBS remains heavily in the radio business but is selling a lot of stations in middle American markets in order to keep their big holdings in big cities.

MUSIC: All of the Big 5 have been out of recorded music since Universal Music (which had previously bought ABC's labels) was bought by Vivendi of France in the 1990's and CBS's Columbia and Epic records division were sold to Sony in the 1980's. NBC's RCA labels were sold off in the 1980's and are now owned by Sony.
Where were the Fiscally Conservative Republican/Conservatives that are Foaming at the Mouth Over Obama's Economy Fix for the Past 8 Years?
from February 15, 2009

Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN (The Atlantic Senior Editor): They're also saying that
we are the party of fiscal conservatism. Now they...

MATTHEWS: Since when, though?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, since like I think like 10 minutes ago. I mean, they
spent, for future debt of this country, they added $30 trillion in a period of
boom. We're now in the swiftest downturn in employment in decades and they're
quibbling over something like $400 billion worth of spending. It doesn't make
any sense. The hypocrisy of these people, their ability to turn on a dime and
not even acknowledge their own responsibility. If they hadn't spent the
amount they'd spent in the last eight years, we wouldn't have this crisis in
the sense that we'd have much more leeway to spend our way out of the
recession. The one moment you don't want to be a fiscal conservative is when
the global economy is heading down into a down draft. And yet that's the one
moment that these Republicans pick to allegedly stand up for their principles.
It's insane, I think, and frankly, all these news cycle spins, I--that's the
old politics. The new politics is we're in a terrible economic crisis, have
we done enough to get ourselves out of it?

Is the Digital TV Changeover Really Just a Big Gift to the Broadcasters at the Expense of Consumers?

2/18/2009--Why should the public have to pay anything more in order to see ad-filled crappy TV channels that are packed with celebrity news and reality TV junk, along with a few programs featuring actors and writing?

The airwaves belong to the people, but they are occupied by mega-corporations, which, thanks to digital TV, will have many more channels to fill with junk.

To compensate, the 5 mega-media corporations are giving up their "analog" channels (the one our TV's currently can pick up). Originally, when the U.S. Congress approved the digital TV switchover in the 1990's, the promise was that we would now have all these local-owned stations. Instead, a few years ago the Bush administration auctioned those channels off to AT & T and Verizon, the U.S.'s 2 phone monopolies, so they can SELL us more cell phone services.

Call or write your congresspeople now!
This is a ripoff!

About a quarter of the nation's TV stations cut off their analog signals Tuesday, causing sets to go dark in households that were not prepared for digital television despite two years of warnings about the transition.

Though most viewers were ready - and people with cable or satellite service were unaffected - some stations and call centers reported a steady stream of questions from frustrated callers.

"It's kind of an irritation, but I understand that everyone will have a much better picture. As far as I was concerned, they could have left things the way they were," said Dorothy Delegard, 67, of Minneapolis, who bought a converter box because a friend gave her a coupon that expired Tuesday.

Phones were ringing off the hook at a walk-in information center set up by stations in Providence, R.I.

A volunteer at the center, Jeremy Taylor, said he tried to calm agitated callers.

"I try to explain that the digital switch is not something we're doing to extort them of money," Taylor said...



Early converts to digital are fuzzy about benefits

Some report getting worse reception and fewer stations, at least for now

…The switch to digital broadcasts will free up valuable airwaves for public safety officials to improve their communications networks and for wireless companies to offer new services. And for most people, it will produce sharper pictures with better sound. Digital TV also enables broadcasters to transmit four or more programs simultaneously on new sub-channels….