There are those in our society who always feel they are “entitled”. Whether earned or imagined, these “entitled” feel they should always get their way. It’s fascinating when two of the “entitled” face off in an attempt to gain an advantage. Such is the case when it comes to sports television networks and cable companies.
Much has been made as of late of the battle between the Big Ten Network (BTN) and cable giants Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter. The network is currently not shown on those systems. The Big Ten states covered by thoe cable companies are currently out of luck. Many subscribers (but not an overwhelming number) have switched to Direct TV, which does carry BTN. The NFL Network has also been in a well publicized, legal fight against Comcast.
The arguments are simple. The networks feel their programming is “entitled” to a position on the cable company’s extended basic tier of programming. The cable companies feel they are “entitled” to place the networks anywhere on their system they choose, and in many cases that means on special sports tiers which subscribers are charged extra.
Both sets of these “entitled” believe their positions are taken with the subscribers in mind. The network “entitled” feel their fans are so large that they deserve special treatment. The cable company “entitled” say the per subscriber fee charged by some of the networks is exhorbitant. The Big Ten Network, for example, wants to charge cable companies in Big Ten states $1.10 per subscriber each month while only $.10 per subscriber per month in non-Big Ten States. The cable companies also contend that other than local broadcast stations and community access channels, they have the sole right to place channels on any programming tier they wish.
Despite their declarations, it’s easy to see these decisions are really based on each company’s bottom line. The networks can make more money by being on the extended basic tier. The cable companies realize that by putting the networks on the sports tier, they wouldn’t have to raise cable rates across the board while still making money off those who seek this specialized programming.
I understand both arguments, but I side with the cable companies on this one. For some reason the networks portray a level of interest in their programming that, in reality, is probably over blown. That’s the case with all cable television networks. They believe their programming is the most popular on cable television and should be given special consideration. It is up to the cable company to decide which networks, in their opinion, are telling the truth. It’s part of their right to conduct their business as they see fit.
Those in support of the networks contend that cable companies like Comcast play favorites, placing channels such as Versus and Fox Sports Net on the extended basic tier only because of their ownership stake in those networks, not based on the level of subscriber interest. They may be right. But these networks also play favorites based on financial commitments they have with advertisers. The network “entitled” cannot have it both ways.
I would suspect that following this Saturday’s Michagan upset by Appalachain State, the Big Ten Network and the cable providers will reach a compromise. The same may eventually be the case when the NFL season starts next week and the NFL Network and Comcast come to terms. In the end, look for the “entitled” to claim victory.