Jan. 6, 2009
Last week, cable giant Time Warner "negotiated" a deal to keep showing Viacom's channels after December 31, 2008. As a Los Angeles Times article indicated the companies were battling hard with Viacom threatening to turn off kid's shows to get their money:
"Viacom had purchased newspaper advertisements, featuring a tearful Dora the Explorer, and placed an on-screen crawl on its channels to alert viewers to the impending programming blackout. The ads encouraged viewers to complain to Time Warner Cable."
"The tactic worked -- parents reported having to soothe children who were upset over the prospect of not being able to watch their favorite shows on Nickelodeon, including 'SpongeBob SquarePants.'"
Emotional blackmailers of children - in which circle of Hell did Dante place such scoundrels? Not a pleasant one I'll bet.
Well, of course, Time Warner capitulated and agreed to a 12% increase for the Viacom channels. Under the old agreement, for example, Viacom received about 32 cents per subscriber per month from cable operators for MTV. If you didn't want MTV - tough. Time Warner carries Viacom channels into 13.3 million houses, so one-third of a dollar per month per subscriber ain't chicken feed.
Unfortunately, the mechanism to protect consumers from such price increases, manipulation of children, and unwanted purchases of cable channels is not in place. What would that be? It is having the power to refuse to purchase and pay for cable channels.
This episode points to the need for consumer choice in cable TV channel selection. If cable subscribers had that power - - SpongeBob SquarePants would probably be the one who would need some serious consolation right now after many adults turned him off and pocketed the change.