"Finicky" means very hard to please. "Finick" means someone like me, who is very hard to please.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cablevision is damaging the CBS network—and likely lying to viewers.

I am now about to endure my fourth consecutive weekend without Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes.

Recently there has been no NCIS, Bull, Criminal Minds or Elementary in my home. My own good wife doesn't get the see The Good Wife. 

Since January 13th I've been caught in a disruptive, destructive, despicable, infantile dispute between TV service provider Cablevision (recently bought by European media behemoth Altice—and using the "Optimum" brand for TV service) and Meredith Corporation.

Meredith publishes magazines and owns or operates multiple television stations, including CBS affiliate WFSB, based in Rocky Hill, CT near state capital Hartford.
  • Meredith says I am a pawn. 
  • Cablevision says I am a hostage.
  • I don't want to be either.
I live in Milford CT, about 40 miles from WFSB. Until recently I could choose among more than 800 TV channels—including two from NBC, two from ABC and two from CBS.

last month I lost both of my CBS channels—WFSB as well as WCBS from New York City. The same thing happened three years ago.
No thanks.
WFSB tells unhappy viewers: "You can watch us for free over the air with an antenna, or you may choose to subscribe to DirecTV (1-800-DIRECTV), Dish Network (1-888-825-2557) or AT&T U-verse (1-877-597-9067) which all carry WFSB and the other local television stations in our market."
  • No thanks. I am not going to change TV service providers because of a short-term problem. (If I switch to AT&T or Dish, they could have a blackout in the future.) I tried two over-the-air antennas and neither one will receive CBS programming.
  • No way. WFSB and Cablevision also point out that I can watch some CBS programming on my PC. Watching television programs on a 27-inch PC monitor while sitting on a desk chair is not like watching a 65-inch TV while lying on a couch.
According to the New Haven Register, "Lisa Anselmo, an Altice USA spokeswoman, said it was Meredith’s decision to remove WFSB from the Optimum lineup. The bulk of Optimum customers are in Fairfield County, Anselmo said, and will still be able to view CBS programming via the network’s New York City-based affiliate, WCBS."
  • Get serious, Lisa. I live in New Haven County—not Fairfield. Your wacky deal stops me from seeing WCBS!
So-called "blackouts" are an unfortunately common part of cable TV negotiating. The loss of programming can last for hours or months. Viewers and advertisers are the victims. But even networks and local stations get hurt as viewers sample previously ignored programming.
The blackouts are symptoms of a fundamental clash of interests.
  • Providers of programming want to maximize the income earned by their expensive productions.
  • Cable TV companies want to pay as little as possible to the program providers, both to maintain profitability and to avoid rate increases in a fragile economy where viewers can choose from a growing number of competing entertainment and information sources.
In an email, Meredith's VP for Corporate Communications and Government Relations Art Slusark told me, "We value your viewership and we are working hard to resolve this matter, but Cablevision refuses to negotiate, even though other cable companies have agreed to compensate WFSB."

I’m not sure that local channels should be paid by cable companies. Can’t WFSB charge more for advertising because of the extra audience the cablecos deliver? Maybe WFSB should pay Cablevision, or at least provide its program feed for free.

Throughout this annoying ordeal, one issue has been strangely ignored by Meredith, Cablevision, the media covering the situation and politicians: How can WFSB, a little broadcaster near Hartford, stop me from watching WCBS, a giant broadcaster based in New York City? Meredith does not own WCBS!

During the 2014 blackout U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy urged Cablevision and Meredith to end the blackout. They wrote that they “believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families . . . .  The senators also want Cablevision to “commit to refund upon request any Litchfield or New Haven County subscribers who are no longer getting what they signed up for, a portion of their monthly bill commensurate with WFSB’s value.”

Senators, what about WCBS's value? WCBS is worth a lot to me. WFSB is worth nothing to me. It is one of hundreds of channels that I pay for and could watch—but never watch.

WFSB says it "is simply requesting that Cablevision acknowledge that our WFSB is a valuable source of programming for all of Cablevision's Connecticut customers, even those customers that also receive an out-of-state CBS station." Again, WFSB is worth nothing to me.

WFSB also says, "WFSB's vital local news, emergency information, and top-rated CBS sports and entertainment programming are important to Optimum customers." BULLSHIT! WFSB is absolutely worthless to me.

WFSB also says, "Our signals always have been and always will be free over-the-air." BULLSHIT. I can't receive WFSB over-the-air at my home.

Sept. 5, 2012 Cablevision and CBS Corporation announced the renewal of their content carriage agreements covering retransmission consent for CBS Owned Stations. A similar agreement was announced on 8/25/15:

Well, the "multi-year" agreement did not last two years! I want my CBS.


CBS is the most popular network for prime-time programming. Probably 80% of the TV programs I watch are CBS programs. The rest are a mix of NBC, ABC, HBO, Amazon, CNN, MSNBC, History, Netflix, Velocity, HGTV and a few others. 

Lester and Scott are both welcome in my home. 
 I have no idea who does the ABC news.

For evening news I've been addicted to CBS since the days of Walter Cronkite. During the blackout I've been watching Lester Holt on NBC. He's just fine—and there's a good chance that I may never bother with Scott Pelley again. I've sampled other NBC programming, too. I watched the Today show for the first time in about 50 years. Gave Garroway and J. Fredd Muggs are gone and Al Roker has a beard.

For late-night comedy I usually watch Stephen Colbert. The blackout caused me to check on the two Jimmies. Kimmel and Fallon are fine and I will not likely be an exclusive watcher of CBS's Colbert again.

There's no better way to get viewers to sample non-CBS programming than to make CBS unavailable. If I was a conspiracy fan I might accuse Cablevision of getting paid by other networks to sabotage CBS.

1 comment:

  1. My understanding of why we in New Haven county (I am in Milford as well) do not get CBS is that within WFSBs affiliate coverage area, it can disallow the carriage of other CBS feeds (i.e. CBS). That's likely the reason why we lost channel 5, the NY Fox affiliate, as well.