Greed vs. Greed: With a week to go, who to side with in TW vs. ABC/ESPN?


Once upon a Time Warner Cable, we knew who are enemies were.

Time Warner Cable, for one. ESPN, sometimes. Depending on how much either is trying to throw their power plays around.

A week from now, we’re told, your ESPN channels can disappear from the said cable company because of another dispute. You’re being asked, again, to “roll over or get tough.”

We’ve heard this sad refrain before. Like, last fall. TWC, remember, was supposed to never again air “The Simpsons” when it was in a dispute with Fox. And your Fox Sports Net channels would go away, too. It was a Homer call. It didn’t seem to work.

It’s Burr vs. Hamilton. Except no one’s willing to pull the trigger.

One of the donkeys always give in. And all is calm.


With Disney as the target this time, we’re just getting goofy all over again.

TWC, which had a reported net income of more than $1 bil last year, says it will pull the plug on all Disney-related channels when the contract expires on Sept. 2. That’s the same day USC opens its football season with a game in Hawaii — ESPN, 8 p.m.

Other cable (Verizon FIOS) and satellite (DirecTV, Dish) services love this. They run full-page ads putting fear into TWC subscribers, with the tag line: Come to us. We wouldn’t think of doing such a thing.

Not now, at least.

We’ve read up on the arguments about subscriber fees, channel designations, transmission fees, basic cable costs, premium tiers, revenue streams, customer service, video on demand, pay-per-view, fiber optics, FCC petitions, retransmission guidelines, consumer advocats, blackouts, net neutrality, preferential treatment, natural competition, broadband influence, monopolies, duopolies and triple casting.

That last one, not really. We just miss the old TripleCast that NBC tried with the 1996 Summer Olympics.

So, what if TWC really did go ahead and follow through with a threat? What if, in the name of consumer watchdogging, it told Disney, sorry, but we’re not going to share this huge pile of money with you this time? We’ll wait it out until you blink.

Not good business? It could be.

There’s a cable system in Indiana that’s been running ads that go this way:

“You’ve probably heard rumblings that ESPN may remove its channels from our lineup. We can think of a few other highly-publicized channel negotiations where the same threats were made. The end result — the channels stayed on, with no interruption for viewers.”

Made you blink.

Over at (a site run by Disney), it reads: “It is in the best interests of consumers, as well as both companies, for us to successfully conclude these negotiations before the deadline to avoid interrupting service.”

C’mon. Follow through on this.

If Disney disappeared from TWC, who’d be the real bad guy? Would the consumer care? Would it rebel agains both Disney/ESPN and TWC — switching to a new service, and then boycotting Disney/ESPN?

Makes too much sense. But as a DirecTV customer — happily, for many years — I can say that when the system took away Versus, then brought it back after a long stretch without NHL regular-season coverage, my life wasn’t all that better or worse.

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