Saturday, January 12, 2008

Economics of cable and satellite broadcasting, part three

So I've talked about the different programming fees that the content providers charge the cable and satellite companies. Would you like to know what those fees are? Well, you can't.

Cable companies and programmers do not reveal their contracted programming rates. The rates presented here have been gleaned from a variety of sources and include the base cost of the programming plus the cable companies mark-up.

So the took a guess at what the different programming rates are. Here are a few of their guesses:

ESPN $ 3.80/mo.
Regional Sports Network $ 2.25/mo.
Nickelodeon $ 1.40/mo.
ESPN2 $ 1.05/mo.
TNT $ 1.00/mo.
Sci-Fi Channel $ 1.00/mo.
CNN $ 1.00/mo.
Disney $ 0.95/mo.
CNBC $ 0.90/mo.
Bravo $ 0.85/mo.
USA $ 0.85/mo.
MTV $ 0.80/mo.
AMC $ 0.75/mo.
Fox News Channel $ 0.75/mo.
FX $ 0.75/mo.
ABC Family $ 0.75/mo.
MSNBC $ 0.70/mo.
TV Land $ 0.70/mo.
Discovery $ 0.70/mo.
NFL $ 0.70/mo.
Cartoon Network $ 0.70/mo.

So how does think that cable should be? They are all for a la carte pricing, where customers can select the channels they want without being forced to tolerate the channels they don't want. Here's part of why they say this isn't happening:

Ask a cable company why they can't sell you the networks you want on an à la carte basis and they'll say because the networks won't let them or that the à la carte rates are so high it just wouldn't work.

Ask a network the same question and they'll essentially tell you that without old ladies helping pay for ESPN, pious folks paying for Comedy Central, and the childless paying for Nickelodeon their ability to produce quality programming is utterly laid to waste, destroyed, kaput.

Both big cable companies and networks then quickly add that networks serving niche audiences – and, in particular, minority communities – would vanish in a world of consumer choice widening the "digital divide" and leaving millions of already disadvantaged Americans out of touch and hopelessly behind.

What poppycock. It's the worst kind of hypocrisy. It is an elite group of über-affluent executives hiding behind the human shield of "niche audiences" to preserve and augment the rapacious margins they gleefully extract from a non-competitive industry. They all love, cherish and protect a system that regularly delivers price increases outpacing inflation by 3X. Über-yuck!

So who is controlling this effort?

HowCableShouldBe and are trade and service marks of the Parents Television Council™.


The Parents Television Council was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. Our national grassroots organization has nearly one million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. We are a nonpartisan organization that works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.

Television is the most powerful medium in the world. It can be a wonderful way to educate, inspire, and entertain America's children. Sadly it's doing the opposite and undermining the positive values parents are trying to instill in their young ones.

The PTC agrees that parents have the greatest responsibility when it comes to monitoring the viewing habits of their children, but the PTC challenges actors, writers, producers, musicians, game-makers and advertisers to get serious about the vital role they play in shaping America's culture. The gratuitous sex, foul language, and violence on TV (along with stories and dialogue that create disdain for authority figures, patriotism, and religion) are having a negative effect on children. Much of the PTC's success stems from motivating the public to voice its support of family-friendly programming to network executives, advertisers, public policy leaders, and the creative community in Hollywood. The PTC has employed these efforts to help save values-driven shows such as ITV's Doc and CBS's Joan of Arcadia, and to encourage other shows to get rid of the offensive content, including Coupling, Nip/Tuck, and Skin. The PTC also has a successful campaign to clean up the Family Hour.

And presumably since cable and satellite television is under less government control than the broadcast networks, then cable/satellite television is a target.

Their Celebrity Advisory Board includes names such as Pat Boone, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Tim Conway (although I didn't see Tim Conway Jr. on the board).

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