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News Corp, Time Warner Play to DC Not The Viewers

Posted by: Ron Grover on January 02, 2010

Was there ever any doubt that News Corp. and Time Warner would come to an agreement that would allow Time Warner’s cable unit to continue showing News Corp’s cable or broadcast properties on its system? The announcement on Jan. 1 that the two sides had averted a showdown that would have kept the BCS football game on the sidelines for 11 million folks is, well, a yawner.

It’s become almost an annual kabuki dance among cable or satellite operators and content providers to show which side – content or distribution – has the most muscle when it comes to such talks. Guess what fellas? Neither of you really have what it takes any longer to force your will on the other.

The last time we had a showdown anywhere near this size was back in 2000, when Time Warner, in the midst of a similar showdown with ABC, allowed Regis Philbin and his then-hit show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to go dark for some 3.5 million homes. The cries from Washington were deafening. Hearings were held, fingers slapped.

So when the chorus started again in Washington on Dec. 30 on the current impasse you knew that Fox and Time Warner were destined to do whatever they could to avoid having DC on their backs. First, Sen. John Kerry urged the sides toward arbitration, and then FCC commissioners started encouraging peace. If there is anything that a media company wants less than a shutdown in the ad markets, it’s to have the feds on their backs. So Time Warner and News Corp. wisely extended the Dec. 30 deadline, then scurried to cut a deal that you know is less than the monthly $1 per subscriber fee that News Corp. had all but insisted was their right to get from cable operators.

One thing News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, who owns TV stations, newspapers and internet sites, understands is that he sure as heck doesn’t want an angry FCC looking over his shoulder. In the past, he’s done back flips to keep them happy, whether it was striking a deal that allowed him to own the New York Post and New York area TV stations, or to get his deal to buy DirecTV passed a few years back. As for Time Warner, do you think they want the feds thinking bad thoughts about them when the FCC is still contemplating rules on such things as “net neutrality” – that is, whether Time Warner’s online offerings are to be regulated? Uh, no.

Sure, it was good theater. News Corp. told America that it might not get the NFL, American Idol or Glee. Time Warner said it was fighting to keep consumer prices from zooming if Fox high jacked higher fees from them. Yeah, yeah. A good show boys. It sure played in Washington.

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Reader Comments


January 2, 2010 09:17 AM

Are you serious? Now that Time Warner Cable and News Corp worked out a deal- neither side is willing to talk about the details. After weeks of bickering back and forth, now silence. Both company's dragged the public into their negotiations---but now refuse to reveal the outcome. Did TWC roll over or get tough? Did Fox receive what they had demanded? We deserve to know the details. However, this will not happen. Informing the public would make a bigger mockery of TWC and News Corps previous statements and the full blitz campaigns they used against each other. [which fueled the public calls to the FCC and relevant Senators). Instead they are content to make a mockery out of their customers- who were used as negotiation pawns. PLEASE-- Next time-- and I am speaking to TWC and News Corp, do not use the media and customers to strike a good deal---- Your tactics have been proven to be disingenuine and manipulative.


January 2, 2010 04:43 PM

Fox Network is canceling Dollhouse.

I am trying to save Dollhouse.

FCC please protect consumers

January 4, 2010 11:56 AM

It's time for a la carte programming. I really could care less if I don't get Fox, or any broadcast channel, or all but 5 or 6 of the 100 plus channels that I'm forced to pay $75/mo for as "basic cable" by Comcast. I'm tired of paying $4.10 a month to ESPN when I don't even watch Sports. That's an outrageous amount compared to say, $0.17 a month for Travel Channel which I do watch.

The FCC is failing in its job to protect US consumers. They are looking out for big corporations. The United States = a government of the people, by the people and for the LOBBYISTS.

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The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.



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