What’s actually surprising is how sympathetic Viacom comes off to those who don’t have any insight into the situation.
Since their channels each have one feed that goes to every provider (including Dish Network, DirecTv, and every cable company), those “Call Dish to keep from losing this channel!” messages went out to every viewer. It was only Dish Network who blocked them, although the other providers have to be mightily peeved at Viacom for this visual pollution.
The dispute isn’t whether to make the Viacom channels pay-per-view or on their own tier (like you’d order HBO). Viacom won’t stand for that, period, end of story, and that won’t happen without governmental intervention. They want Dish Network (aka Echostar) to pay them an increase of X dollars per subscriber per year, and also add a channel called Nick Toons to their lineup. (Remember, satellite bandwidth is limited, so it’s not an issue of flipping a switch and saying “OK, here’s space for your channel!”)
So consider this, all cable and satellite customers: Viacom wants to continue to be paid on a per-subscriber basis. Nothing OOTO here, other content providers do the same thing. But this isn’t the same as being paid on a per-viewer basis. You’re paying for Viacom’s fee increase, even if you never watch any of there channels. Same goes for ESPN/Disney–your cable or satellite bill goes towards those networks’ contracts with the NFL, MLB, NHL, etc., EVEN IF YOU HATE SPORTS AND DON’T EVER WATCH THEM. Wonder how it is that athletes’ contracts keep rising in value? Because they’re getting revenue from your household.
So if Viacom gets an additional $2 a month from Dish Network, your bill goes up $2. If it goes up $5, your bill goes up $5 . . . you get the idea.
But don’t be smug (like BurnMeUp) if you don’t have Dish Network. Their competitors, DirecTV and the cable industry, stand to benefit short-term from Dish’s problem. But secretly they’re cheering Dish Network, and they’re hoping to break the influence these large corporations have over their channel lineup. If not, you can expect to see your cable or satellite bill continue to rise for the foreseeable future, regardless of your provider.
Really, the only way out of this cycle is for “a la carte” programming, where you choose only the channels you want. Since content providers will never agree to this, you won’t see it without the government getting involved.
The blackout will happen at midnight PST, tonight, Monday. If an agreement is reached, it will only be because Dish won this staredown contest.
Other things to consider: An admittedly unscientific poll of DishNetwork subscribers here says overwhelmingly, “Screw Viacom!”
Plus, if you could ever consider a multi-billion dollar corporation “the little guy”, it would be Echostar under Charlie Ergen. Unlike DirecTV (Fox), he doesn’t have a content provider under his corporate umbrella. But he has chosen to offer several consumer-friendly features on his PVR products that DirecTV can’t be bothered with. For example, soon all users with his 921 HDTV PVR will be able to archive recordings via firewire; very important when you realize how much disk space one HDTV show takes up. DirecTV will not offer that with their TiVo. Also, DirecTV is contemplating removing the 30-second skip ahead button from their TiVo, so you have to watch the commercials. And DirecTV will be tracking viewers’ usage habits with new software from Nielson.
The content providers have shifted to an increasingly anti-consumer business model, which also threatens your “fair use” rights allowing you to record shows and watch them later. They say this is because the shows would end up on the internet; realistically, it’s because they depend on ad revenue to subsidize their free-of-charge usage of the public airwaves.
If you have cable or satellite TV, you need to be watching this little pissing war very closely.