Tagged: Time Warner Cable

Fond Expectancy of Spring

Just as our long, brutal winter ended in the northeast, major league baseball swiftly returned last week to usher in the new spring season. It couldn’t come soon enough.

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Although I didn’t mention it on this site at the time, baseball—along with late-season bicycling—was a welcome distraction last fall as my life was basically falling apart. Baseball seemed like an unlikely source of solace at the time because I had essentially missed the entire 2014 regular season. As a cord cutter, it was impractical to watch a game on television. Also, watching baseball at home was, to me, not unlike drinking—it’s kind of fun but socially unacceptable unless you’re doing it with other people.


Even more unusual for me, I didn’t attend a single baseball game in 2014. I hadn’t gone an entire season without going to a baseball game since the Clinton administration. The closest I came to following the 2014 baseball season was catching a few occasional glimpses, such wood-cover notebooks for the hipster set that resemble baseball bats, better-than-perfect games, a film about the late Doc Ellis, and yes, Derek Jeter retiring. It was so bad that I was basically shocked to learn that the Washington Nationals were considered a favorite to win the World Series.

As I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in late September, I learned via Twitter that the As and Royals were playing perhaps the best one-game playoff in the history of the game. That excitement, that connection to other people, and that feeling of not-knowing the outcome are why I loved watching baseball in the first place. After that game, I was determined to watch as much baseball as possible to reconnect with friends and strangers alike. I had felt alone for the past two months and, even if I was always around my friends, they were around mostly to console me. With the baseball playoffs, however, it was an activity we could all share that wasn’t about my own emotional pain. In the end, I watched every almost game of the playoffs anyway I could: on a television screen at a friend’s place, on a projected image at a local bar, or through a streaming device using a VPN. By the time the World Series finished at the end of October, my life seemed to make a little more sense than it did before the that crazy game in Kansas City.


For all the relief baseball brought me last year, I had basically missed spring training and was vaguely aware that baseball was starting this year. But last week, while I was in California for a wedding and some other business, my brother came through with an irresistible offer: he had tickets to Opening Day at Dodger’s Stadium.


I forgot how exciting it is to go to an Opening Day game. It had been close over ten years since I had been to one, most recently at the now-demolished Shea Stadium. It had been even longer, since 2001 or so, since I had seen an opening day game at Dodger Stadium: I remember Chan Ho Park pitching a shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Last Monday was a truly exhilarating experience that included several highlights.

  1. The Dodger Stadium Express bus didn’t exist more than five years ago, but it was a very popular way to get to the stadium that day. When we saw the long lines of people waiting board the bus, one guy in our crew called an Uber to take us to the stadium. It was a foolish decision because the driver couldn’t get us any closer than a mile from the stadium. We ended up getting out of the car and hiking up the hill. After the game, however, we waited patiently to board the bus, but it took close to an hour to travel down the hill to Union Station. The interminable trip however did not dampen our mood: most everyone remained festive recounting the game’s highlights and debating about the best option for post-game revelry. By the way, the duration and popularity of this shuttle bus service convinced me there are two places in Los Angeles that could really use direct rail service: LAX and Dodger Stadium. I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.

  2. Two things happened around the same time. Pitcher Yimi Garcia entered the game in the seventh inning to relieve Clayton Kershaw, and new Dodger and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning that ultimately won the game for the Dodgers. First, we learned to pronounce Garcia’s first name—Yee-mee!— in the seventh. We later repurposed it for Rollins in the eighth—Yee-mee!

  3. Getting reacquainted with Mexican slang and their colorful uses at a ballgame. Although this is hardly what I would call a “family blog,” I won’t get into any details here.

  4. Watching the game in person was not only the best way to watch the game, it was probably also the only way for most people. For the second season, most fans can’t watch the Dodgers on TV because of a retransmission dispute between SportsNet LA and most area MVPDs, including DirecTV. My guess is that the game was available on TV for as many people in 2015 as it was when Dodger home games were available only on ON-TV in the 1980s.

It was not only a great way to start watching baseball again, it was the best way end this awful and depressing winter.

It’s Not TV, It’s Broadband

Late last night, news broke that Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable, a company that was recently spun off from its Time Warner media conglomerate parent. The two companies rarely compete against each other because cable television distributors, also known as MVPDs, operate as regional monopolies. Moreover, cable television companies see as competitors over-the-top services, such as Netflix and Hulu. They insist that while there will be fewer firms in the MVPD space, there will still be plenty of competitors in the TV distribution space.

This merger might be about getting MVPDs having better leverage during retransmission disputes. But the masterminds behind this acquisition wouldn’t be earning their money if they weren’t aiming to consolidate broadband Internet access. Free Press points out that “Comcast is the country’s #1 cable and Internet company and Time Warner Cable is #2. Put them together and you get a single giant controlling a massive share of our nation’s TV and Internet-access markets.” It’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t put the squeeze on those same over-the-top services that they see as competitors.

We need to keep the pressure on regulators to impose net neutrality–type restrictions on these broadband providers. Or regulators can block the merger altogether.

Shut Up and Get an Antenna

1940s Cable Guys

As someone why doesn’t have a dog in the fight, as I don’t watch any CBS shows and I don’t subscribe to any multichannel video provider, I have been a bit detached from the CBS-Time Warner Cable retransmission dispute. Someone complains that they can’t watch…wait, what does CBS air in the summer?…and I think, “shut up and get an antenna!”

The timing of the dispute has been to the advantage of both parties. They get to dig in their heels during broadcast television’s lowest season, and they both save face since the stakes are rather low right now. The conventional wisdom, however, is that someone has to give in before the NFL season starts. Once that season kicks off, all hell is supposed to break loose. Time Warner Cable customers are supposed to revolt because they can’t get their Patriots vs. Bills, Titans vs. Steelers, or any of four other games on CBS on Sunday, September 8. Or so the thinking goes. In the meantime, we have a stalemate. Both parties are hanging tough, but until something gives, let’s examine the issues at hand.

Time Warner Cable is a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), an industry term for a company that brings you a lot of television channels. An MVPD such as Time Warner needs consent from a broadcaster to take its signal, from a transmitting antenna, and retransmit it through its own cable/satellite/fiber optic network to your home. In exchange for distributing the signal, the MVPD charges you a monthly fee. This is your cable bill.

Until 1992, MVPDs were required to retransmit all of the television stations in their local area and carry them on their channel lineup with the same channel assignment. The practice has a catchy name: must carry. For instance, the station you received on Channel 7 with your antenna was the same as Channel 7, although the signal was probably clearer because most people don’t know how to orient properly an antenna. Although the MVPD carried the stations’ signals, the stations were not compensated. Your cable company basically took something from the air for free and charged you for it. We have hated the Cable Company ever since.

The situation is different today. Cable companies must get permission from television stations for retransmission. Broadcasters can give the consent in one of two ways:

  • They can require the MVPD to retransmit their station’s signal (“must-carry”) without compensation
  • They can allow the MVPD to retransmit their station’s signal (“may-carry”) in exchange for compensation.

Most broadcasters choose the latter: a practice called retransmission consent. To get consent, MVPDs could either pay the station a fee or negotiate some other form of compensation. Most MVPDs balked at paying stations for what used to be free. Instead, they would offer to carry cable-only stations owned by the broadcaster or its parent company. For example, in 1993, the then-owners of ABC stations negotiated with the MVPD Continental Cable to carry its nascent ESPN2, instead of requiring a cash payment for retransmitting its broadcast stations, paving the way for its nationwide rollout.[1]

This situation would be a win-win for both parties. The channel lineup would expand for the MVPD, and thus their service was more valuable (and expensive), and the station owner would expand the reach of its cable channel and could sell more advertising (and charge more). Today, however, advertising revenue is unstable because of the dwindling audience, and thus stations and their owners are demanding cash, which they hadn’t done until very recently.

This is the background behind the dispute between Time Warner Cable, an MVPD, and CBS Television Stations, the division of CBS, Inc. that owns twenty-eight or so television stations. Each station that CBS owns is known as an owned-and-operated, or O&O, station. CBS Television Stations has reportedly demanded an increased payment for Time Warner Cable to retransmit the signal of its O&Os, and also Showtime, The Movie Channel, and Smithsonian. Time Warner Cable cannot retransmit those signals either because CBS owns those cable stations, too. Time Warner Cable is balking at the increase because they will either have to make less money (yeah, right) or pass along the charge to subscribers, who will complain about yet another rate increase. Thus, no Time Warner Cable customer gets to watch anything transmitted by a CBS-owned broadcast or cable television station. Tough toenails, as my seventh-grade science teacher used to say.

The ire of most customers is directed at the MPVD. After learning all of this, I almost sympathetic to the MVPD. Its costs are rising seemingly arbitrarily and has little recourse but to accept it. If they drop CBS and its many stations, their customers will revolt. They will either jump to a competitor, should they exist, or they will simply cancel their service. People are doing that already and missing must-have channels can only exacerbate the cord cutting.

  1. Joe Flint. “Top of the Week: CapCities, Hearts Opt for Channel.” In Broadcasting and Cable 19 July 1993: 6, 8–9.  ↩