At about 2 o’clock this afternoon, Adam Scott pulled out what looked like was a giant egg beater and stood over his golf ball, trying to whip an uphill putt from about 20 feet out and make a birdie on the ninth hole at the PGA Championship.
He missed it, slipping back behind new leader Jim Furyk.
Great Scott, what’s going on here?
“Not too much damage,” said CBS analyst Gary McCord as Scott tapped in for his par, handed his over-sized putting apparatus to his caddy, and sloughed off to the next hole.
Guess it depends on how you really want to assess the damage in all this messiness.
The current dispute raging in the public domain lately by billion-dollar corporation Time Warner Cable and billion-dollar corporate CBS, at the expense of millions of patient customers caught in the rough without any kind of relief, doesn’t have to be accepted as par for the course in the broadcast TV world we support today.
Yet, unless something major happens – outside of blacking out a major golf tournament – customers will feel as if they’re peering out of huge sand trap with a rake in one hand and a cell phone in the other asking for help.
It probably does little to appease anyone in coming up with a logical explanation as to why the ongoing spat continues. It boils down to how much TWC wants to pay CBS in retransmission consent fees. Dollars and cents, is all.
CBS says the content it provides on several channels is more popular than what is being offered by cable channels, which charges for its various packages. TWC says it’s simply sticking up for its customers by not wanting to raise its rates any longer.
Helpless, hapless or hopeless, the TWC customers who decide to ride this thing out don’t deserve to be asked to pick sides. Neither are in their corner.
Look at some of the words exchanged by the two broadcast giants – again, at the viewers’ expense – and you can see there’s more at issue here. Retransmission fees are just scratching the surface.
For example, TWC chief Glenn Britt sent a letter to CBS chief Les Moonves early this week, asking for a truce. Moonves nearly went into orbit with his reply, which somehow was let loose on the Internet.
Referring to Britt as being dishonest, insincere and grandstanding, Moonves asked why TWC was stuck on an offer to offer CBS channels on an a la carte basis.
“Anyone familiar with the entertainment business knows that this is an empty gesture,” said Moonves. “The economics and structure of the cable industry have created a certain way that content is distributed and compensated. We both know that a true a la carte universe is not one that Time Warner Cable welcomes.
“In fact, if you thought it was a good idea, why aren’t you offering your new, multi-billion-dollar Lakers and Dodgers channels to your subscribers in Los Angeles on an a la carte basis? Instead, your subscribers in Los Angeles are already being charged in the neighborhood of $4 for the Lakers and likely more than that for the Dodgers (when it becomes available in 2014) . . .
“These charges are added to the cost of your customers’ basic monthly bill whether they want them or not. At the same time, you find it impossible to pay far, far less than that for the network that brings your viewers the NFL, the PGA Championship, the Masters, the NCAA Basketball tournament, SEC Football, plus 60 Minutes, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, Under the Dome, David Letterman, the Grammys, and so much more.”
A la carte, as you may be aware, is something resisted by either side, because it puts the power in the consumer’s remote control.
Rather than put a bunch of channels on different tiers for raising costs, the a la cart system would make everyone’s business heads explode, but it would be a better resolution to having to endure these seasonal spats that continue to force the customers who particularly don’t care about sport programming to stop the farce of continuing to share in paying for it
A la carte may carpe some diem, but not without some caveats, experts warn.
Laura Martin, a senior industry analyst with Needham & Co. in Boston, issued a “Future of TV” report circulated recently that warned explicitly if a channel like ESPN was offered a la carte, it could cost customers as much as $30 a month — or about five times what it does to your bill today in a bundled package.
Further, Martin said that in by her data, only 20 million pay TV subscribers would be willing to agree to buy ESPN with that option. Currently, ESPN is in nearly 100 million homes. If that kind of drop in viewership happened, ESPN would lose billions in ad revenue, and almost everything would just unravel in how it came up with the cash to pay for sports rights fees – those live games that draw you to the channel in the first place.
All this is going on to counter what Arizona senator John McCain is amidst in his latest attempt on Capitol Hill to break up the cable-dish oligopoly by requiring them to offer all channels a la cart.
Meanwhile, DirecTV, which along with Charter Cable and Verizion FIOS has refused to carry the Pac-12 Network, shows no movement on carrying the new Fox Sports 1 channel when it launches next week and will likely hold out on the new Dodgers channel next year in the same way it waited out the Lakers’ TWC SportsNet. Yet DirecTV actually has backed TWC in this latest dispute with CBS, creating an even more confusing message.
Yes, the more you want to drill down into the core of this, the more you’re inclined to ask for request an extra dose of laughing gas.
By the end of the third round of the PGA Championship, and CBS was ready to sign off from the telecast, Scott missed another birdie at 18. The defending Masters champ had fallen four strokes behind leader Furyk.
“There are all kinds of possibilities here,” said CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz, looking at the leader board. “Can’t wait to have you back tomorrow.”
Only time, or Time Warner Cable, will tell how that plays out.