Posted by: Opey | August 6, 2007

Charter vs Big Ten Update

A few weeks back, I wrote about the continuing negotiations between the new Big Ten Network and Cable monopolist Charter Communications on how, or if, Charter will carry the Big Ten Network in the Wisconsin area, particularly in Madison. From the information available at the time, I arrived at the conclusion that there was a fair amount of greed and bullheadedness on both sides of the equation. The Big Ten wanted to charge Charter over a dollar per subscriber in order to carry the channel and Charter wants to put the channel on a sports-specific tier which would require customers to pay an additional fee to have access to it. Over the past month, there have been plenty of calls for heads to roll on both sides by the fans of Big Ten sports. Both sides had largely stood firm, not budging an inch from their positions. Well, while touring Big Ten conferences in anticipation of the network’s launch, Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman said, “We can negotiate almost anything. The only thing we can’t negotiate is (placement). This network will not be on a (digital) sports tier. Our goal is to bring our network to as many fans as possible.”  This is a rather positive sign on the part of the Big Ten.  Charter quickly attempted to match this olive branch by saying that there would be room for negotiations on the placement of the network if the cost would be flexible.  I have to agree with the statement of Mark Silverman that the Big Ten Network will not survive on the digital sports tier, at least in “Big Ten Country”.  In other markets, it could be put on the sports tier with success.  Charter has said that it does not want to force subscribers who do not want the network to have to pay for it.  Well, I don’t want Lifetime or the Oxygen network, can we put those on a specialized tier?  How about the Golf Network or the History Channel?  Can we put those on their own tier as well?  Charter is in a position that many cable companies are in.  There is very little competition amongst cable providers due to state regulations.  There appears to be a broad movement to a system of a la carte cable choices in the future, but without competition, cable companies like Charter will be able to pick and choose which particular a la carte options they provide.  The channels that are highly popular can be put on a special tier so that increased fees can be drawn while the channels that are not as popular are left on the regular service, inflating the number of channels that cable claims to offer with their basic packages of service, but providing very little satisfying substance for many viewers.  These recent developments have caused me to shift my view from one of greed on both sides to one where the wrong falls heavily on the cable companies.  I have said it before and I will continue to say it until it actually happens (the same day Hell sets a record low of 32F): Cable/Television needs to be opened up to greater competition and a system of a la carte service needs to be implemented.

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