back to article US broadcasters put the squeeze on small-town cable TV

Small cable TV networks are having to increase their prices just to offer content that the owner will happily give away, and they want the FCC to do something about it. The content in question is broadcast TV channels, which are free to receive if you've got a roof-top antenna and a decent line of sight, but are also normally …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Chad H.


    Tell the Big networks you'll let people out recieving/paying for their channels, and see what happens...

  2. Christian Berger Silver badge

    That's why cable is dead

    It has to much politics involved. That's why I prefer satellite. The signal doesn't care about bean counters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cable isn't dead...

      How else do you get a broadband network connection in small-town America?

      But watching broadcast television programmes on a detached monitor? How quaint.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Cable isn't dead...

        Hmm, DSL, public WLAN. There are lots of efficient ways to distribute Internet.

        1. JC 2

          Re: Cable isn't dead...

          You obviously aren't in small town America where there isn't usually DSL very far, nor WLAN at all. What ways "could" exist in an area, are irrelevant in the eyes of the consumers, their choices in how to connect today by service providers in their area.

          However, neither DSL or WLAN are particularly efficient. WLAN would easily be saturated if everyone tried to use it and the speed is poor. Similar can be said about residential DSL, using a degrading low tech twisted pair line, already slower than cable when we'd like to increase the bandwidth getting to every home if all these content on demand services keep evolving.

          Cable TV is the preferred choice anywhere there are enough channels to satisfy someone who would've had satellite TV instead. The highest speed cabling, now moving slowly to fiber optic, will always be the best way to plug into TV as well as the internet.

          1. Christian Berger Silver badge

            Re: Cable isn't dead...

            First of all, cable isn't particularly high speed. You have a combined bandwidth in the low double digit gigabit range, shared among _all_ your users. In Germany for example, TV-channels already run at extra low bitrates, often as low as 2 Mb/s, while the same channel will be available over free to air satellite with 4-6 Mb/s. (Both in MPEG2 of course)

            Preety much every cable network is already full and would require substantial upgrades. However if you do such upgrades, you'd be much better of laying end to end fibre for virtually the same cost.

            Residential DSL over degrading low tech twisted pair lines manages to have 16/1 Mb/s in most countries, and 50/10 Mb/s if you can move the DSLAM closer to the building, all with negligible crosstalk.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: Cable isn't dead...

              Quoting transmission rates in Germany only reinforces the previous poster's point which you studiously ignore: rural USA.

              Cable is pretty much how they get their TV and internet. More because the local political jurisdictions are in bed with the cable operators, but it is what it is.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Considering the amount of ads...

    It should be free to the end-user as well. From midnight onwards, it's mostly no-content paid advertising programming for things like "Celeb Hair Styling Tips with the Amazing Rotating InStyler!!!" or "Shark Steam Mop - Best Deal Ever!" or "Firmer Skin in 10 Minutes"

    And that's real crap cut'n'pasted from my channel guide, not an exaggeration. I'm actually paying for this garbage.

  4. David Kelly 2

    Just Say No

    Cable operators need to unionize and go on strike. Drop all broadcast channels until all retransmission fees are dropped. There is no fee for over-the-air reception, there should be no fee for local cable delivery other than that of the cable itself.

    These are broadcasters who should be tickled that someone will spend time and money to deliver their unedited content. If the cable operators are replacing commercials with their own then that is a different story altogether.

    If networks charge broadcasters more for their larger audiences then the broadcasters should be able to collect more from advertisers.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Just Say No

      They can't. There is a list of mandatory must carry channels. Cable companies have always complained about must carry channels. You can wind up having to carry the Cantonese Chanel in West Va. In case NBC,ABC,CBS and FOX got to gather and said hmm since they must carry us lets charge them.

      1. Chad H.

        Re: Just Say No

        It has happened David, one individual operator will stop carting a network for a while (ABC a few years ago is the one that comes to mind as they started putting millionaire on the radio so people wouldn't miss it.

    2. unitron

      Re: Just Say No

      Better yet, cable customers should unionize and go on strike because we're getting screwed by all the other parties involved.

      Every chance they get.

      And have been for years.

  5. Beachrider

    USA cable companies have little competition, either...

    Don't equate local channel ownership with the networks. It NEVER happens in the small-town cable systems discussed here. Dice the laws permit the cable provider to overlay commercials, those laws also require the broadcaster to be paid. The cable providers do have to provide low-cost "Broadcast Basic" packages (often for $10-$20/month), those make up less than 10-15% of the subscribers.

    American cable use tends toward special-interest programming (sports, movies, non-English programming, children's channels, etc.). THAT is where cable providers make their REAL money... And very few of them have land-based competition...

  6. Sporkinum

    Small town here

    I live in a small town and we have a co-op that runs the cable, phone, and internet in our town. There is nothing else available other than satellite. They just updated to digital cable and raised their rates by $20/month. That was all the incentive I needed to drop it. They still get money from me for phone and DSL though. Now I get about 15 over the air channels for free, which I supplement with Netflix and anything else that is on the internet. I use an HTPC with a tuner card for anything we watch, and it works very well.

  7. jagophile


    "In theory there are four major networks which cable companies will pay to retransmit: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. The operator is supposed to negotiate with each broadcaster individually to set a price, thus encouraging competition between the four to keep those prices low. "

    That doesn't make sense. They're not competing, they're offering different TV channels, but all 4 are considered "must-haves" by most subscribers.

  8. Mectron

    Easy solution

    Tell the broadcasters, that they channel MUST be avaiable to every single american. so you put up a extensive network of broadcast tower OR GIVE IT AWAY for FREE to cable.

    1. Beachrider

      You are declining the gambit...

      Cable companies WERE overlaying commercials from OTA (over the air) stations. The stations sued, because the cable stations were adulterating their signal, without permission. The FCC rules that the adulteration was OK, but only with permission.

      Your greedy little cable company is telling you half of the story and you are buying it.

      Although the OTA channel is listed as must-carry, the cable company CAN suspend the channel while they are undergoing good-faith bargaining. There ARE binding arbitration mechanisms that can be invoked.

      That is the 'gambit' for these negotiations. It is very different from Europe.

  9. Daniel B.

    Drop the channels!

    That's what Cable TV has done here in Mexico when TV Azteca upped the price. Don't know if it will work though. But given the content of channels 7 and 13 ... TV quality actually goes UP without those channels.

  10. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    America would be a better place if...

    America would be improved if the 'Must Carry' channels included NatGeo, Oasis, Equator, Hi-Fi, Discovery, PBS, BBC, etc. The four 'major' networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and that other one) should carry a sin tax.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: America would be a better place if...

      You do know PBS is a must carry right ? Oops no you didn't.

  11. Coastwatcher

    So make it a revenue source for the cable co

    Over-the-air broadcasters in the US get to choose between "must-carry" (the cable co has to carry the channel, but the broadcaster cannot charge the cable co), and "retransmission consent" (broadcaster can charge the cable co, which has a choice).

    If broadcasters are charging for their content, why shouldn't the cable co make that a premium service, and only pay the broadcasters for the customers who choose that service. If the broadcaster wants to ensure that their advertisers have access to all the eyeballs of the cable subscribers, they'll have to choose "must-carry" (and not charge the cable co for consent).

    I wonder how many cable customers will choose not to pay the surcharge for the local network affiliated station. (I wouldn't pay $5/month to see to the 4 networks: I wouldn't even watch them at all unless they rented my attention by the hour.)

    1. Beachrider

      That is an older model...

      When cable companies overlay commercials, they MUST ALWAYS pay the broadcaster. The technology to do the overlays has become quite cheap (<6 month payback). They ALL are doing it.

  12. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The Swiss have a great solution for that

    Cable providers there are allowed to put anything they receive unencrypted into the cable network for free, provided they don't encrypt it.

    That's why they carry a wide variety of channels, like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

    Maybe we need a rule that once you broadcast something, it's in the air and may be distributed unmodified and without artificial delay by anybody for free.

  13. chrspy

    So how do we...

    ....get to the situation in this country where the BBC actually PAYS Sky for the privilege of having Sky broadcast it's free-to-air programming? £12m of our Licence Fee money just going into the Murdoch coffers!

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: So how do we...

      In the UK, all broadcasters pay a fee to the distribution networks that carry their channels - the distribution network is performing a service. Sky pay a similar amount to Arqiva to carry their channels on Freeview.

  14. Tom 13

    Real Solution: It's time for cable companies to change their pricing models:

    drop the tiered pricing in favor of al-a-carte. When viewers are actually paying for what they watch instead of the pie getting sliced up by non-consumers, we'll get the tv we want instead of the tv somebody else thinks we want.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019