This isn't my first TV blackout, but it's arguably going to be the most significant.
For you youngins, a blackout is when the cable/satellite company gets into a pricing piss fight with the content owner. Net natives can probably only think of YouTube taking down videos because of copyright issues not because the content owner didn't pay YouTube enough.
Who wins a blackout is a lot like housing prices. Each takes a side and you see what the market says. The market in this case is usually the TV viewer, and while I don't have any hard data, I suspect that because the cable/satellite companies have the direct relationship with the viewer, they tend to win more times than not.
This blackout affects Time Warner Cable customers and CBS owned and operated stations. For everyone it means Showtime. For those in a handful of major metropolitan areas, it means their CBS network station too, the one most people think of as free.
Time Warner Cable (TWC)
If I were Time Warner, the media powerhouse that owns HBO, produces Game of Thrones, and released movies, I would end the licensing agreement that allows Time Warner Cable, a separate entity, to use the Time Warner name.
Anyone who lives in New York City can attest to the sheer frustration which is being a Time Warner Cable Customer. Unlike traditional and newer suburbs, residents of NYC will often live in a location where the only option is Time Warner Cable.
Living in a Time Warner Cable only area trumps the DMV in terms of excruciating experiences. The DMV is at least infrequent. Time Warner Cable is every day. Using the Treat versus Chore Index described in my previous post, TWC is almost all chore.
Inventing Ways For You To Enjoy Better
That's really TWC's slogan.
If you have ever listened to Chris Rock, you will understand TWC completely. As a company, they want credit for sh*t they are supposed to do. It's like a deli not charging you for lettuce and tomatoes and wanting you to feel appreciative - it's the baseline. Providing onDemand TV, DVR, and a mobile app (which is horrendous), is not inventing ways for me to enjoy better.
Here is my favorite example. Upwards of 15% of my commercials are switch to Time Warner Cable commercials. I'm your customer already, you nincompoops. Nothing makes me want to switch more than seeing how much cheaper it would be were I not already customer and seeing the immense amount of money being spent to hire celebrities to be in your commercials. If you ever want to understand the imbalance in dollars spent for acquisition versus retention. Look no further than TWC.
Seriously, though, how hard is it to show different ads to your existing subscribers? Is it really that hard? Or, why not give a price match to existing customers who see your ad? Anything that shows half a brain and consideration for your customers would be welcome.
This one case where I hate the player but also the game. It's an unfortunate byproduct of contract driven businesses.
TWC customers get to enjoy ads telling us that CBS is asking for outrageous demands (price increases I assume) for its shows, directing us to their special site on the topic. What they don't tell you is that this fight isn't about CBS the free network station with the highest brand recognition, but the premium channels such as Showtime.
And these outrageous demands? How much can it really be? And, if moving all McDonalds employees to $15 per hour (almost double what they make today) would increase the cost of a big mac by $.80, how much would it really cost us, the viewer, if TWC passed on the costs pro-rata. $2/month?
TWC once again once again shows their lack of cultural and customer awareness. We have moved to an always connected, ever transparent world. By creating a barrier and then obfuscating the details, TWC just looks like AOL trying to save the dialup business.
Now, that I have touched on the pain of being a TWC customer, you can see in my biased view, that the real loser is TWC. A search on the topic seems to concur, with plenty of articles such as, "Is Life Without CBS Really So Bad for Time Warner Customers?" It doesn't yield angry posts or news articles condemning CBS.
Right now, though, we all lose as we watch a pissing match between two large companies, but it's a pissing match that for the first time shows the power of the internet over the power of the cable provider. It's a tricky play for TWC since they power both and have been toying with the idea of making CBS' online content unavailable to their cable users.
In our forever multi-device world, I at least have access to what I want to watch despite the lack of cable. Last weekend, I was able to watch live Tiger Woods win The Bridgestone Invitational. It was not as convenient as watching on my couch with my TV, but I didn't blame CBS. Lucky for me, TWC gives me Starz - which I already have - on CBS to make up for no CBS and access Starz for those who have the currently off-air Showtime. Way to invent - trading 3 channels for 10. No offense to Liberty Media, but no one is ever going to think Starz for Showtime is a good trade.
Who Wins? Who cares. That's what is pretty cool.
Who really wins? Google, as they get to be the beneficiary of ad campaigns by both sides, have more consumers wanting their cable product, and even more people using their core consumer products.