Saturday, August 03, 2013

TV Non-Watch: What would happen if one of your "major" TV networks was swallowed up by the earth (and a few cable networks with it)?


If I don't have access to CBS programming by the time new episodes of The Good Wife begin airing in the fall, I'll be peeved. Otherwise, I think I'm good.

by Ken

It sounds like science fiction, doesn't it? An entire Big Four TV network simply disappearing? As is known to those of you who also reside in Time Warner Cable Country, and especially those of you who get your CBS programming from CBS Owned-and-Operated stations (meaning in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, and Pittsburgh), the CBS stations have gone poof! And with them CBS's cable properties: Showtime, The Movie Channel, Flix, and the Smithsonian Channel -- poof!

I don't know about you, but I really didn't expect it to come to this. I was vaguely aware of the possibility, thanks to what appeared to be a fairly massive CBS promotional campaign demonizing dastardly TWC for daring to threaten to deprive the citizenry of this indispensable programming. It would be, so the ads went, an assault virtually without precedent in the history of mankind.

At least from my perch it appeared that TWC was spending a small fraction of CBS's outlay to fight back, but offered us the interesting claim, unmentioned in the CBS promotional onslaught, that CBS was demanding increases of six (or was it seven?) times in payments for its programming. Even allowing for some fudging in the calculations, that sounds pretty startling, and one wonders how the CBS propagandists could have failed to mention it. If those numbers reflect anything vaguely close to reality, increases of that order, sure to be demanded by other purveyors of programming to cable, would seem to lead inescapably to dramatic increases in my cable bill, which is already astronomical.

What's interesting, though, is how little I'm feeling the loss, now that the great CBS blackout is in place. It's August, of course, so we're still a month or two away from new episodes of The Good Wife. That's something I would really miss should CBS still be MIA come new-season time. Other than that? Well, as I've mentioned, in the last season or two I've become kind of fond of Blue Bloods. I would certainly miss new episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, but it's not as if we cable consumers would suffer any great deprivation of either show, which pop up all over the damned cable band.

And you know, as far as I've been able to reckon, that's about it. The CBS ads are careful to include NFL programming among the deprivations TWC was threatening to inflict on us, and I guess for a lot of people the loss of CBS's AFC coverage will be a bitter blow. After all, how is a football fan supposed to survive with nothing but Fox's NFC coverage, and ESPN's Sunday Night Football, and NBC's Monday Night Football? Or whatever it is that the NFL currently licenses networks other than CBS to offer. I guess this would once have mattered to me, but for years now I've noticed that the onset of a new NFL season, which once filled me with anticipation, now fills me with dread. You would probably have to tie me down to get me to watch an NFL game now.

And of course what New York fans are threatened with the loss of is principally Jets games. Jets games? I would think that by now there was some movement to keep them off the air on purely football-friendly grounds.

Do I have to add that I haven't watched 60 Minutes -- something else that once played an important role in my weekly life -- in maybe 15 years? Or that I don't knowingly watch anything else produced by CBS News? All in all, the CBS-TWC dispute (I'll refrain from calling it "the CBS extortion bid," since I really don't know enough to conclude that as a matter of fact) has for me served primarily to underscore just how little CBS programming I watch.

And what of the cable networks? Well, I don't know what Flix is, and while I should probably be watching what is no doubt stimulating and enlightening programming on the Smithsonian Channel, and I don't offhand recall ever tuning to it.

As for Showtime, I think I'm fine till the next season of Nurse Jackie. (There is another season in the works, isn't there?) I was recording episodes of the new season of Dexter, but I have yet to watch any. The last time I watched a movie on any of the Showtime channels was -- well, I don't remember. (Sorry, CBS.)

And The Movie Channel? You've got to be kidding. If I'm lucky, maybe once a year I find something on it that I want to watch. The only reason I still have it is that the last time I inquired, I wouldn't have saved anything by axing it. And the way things work with me and Time Warner Cable, I wouldn't have been surprised if it wound up costing me more to not get TMC.

In any case, the last communication I had from TWC said that while TMC is kaput, I now have "courtesy access to Encore as replacement programming on a temporary basis," and in fact I should be getting Starz programming as a replacement for Showtime. I once subscribed to Starz and Encore but gave them up in a desperate attempt many years ago to trim my cable bill. I've got a way better shot at finding something to watch on them than on TMC -- or probably even Showtime.

In my experience with TWC everything costs more. Like when I added my phone service to my TWC "package." That would surely save me money, wouldn't it? As far as I can tell, it didn't. And when the installation was done, my kitchen phone no longer rang. I pointed this out to the installer, who insisted that this couldn't possibly be connected to anything he had done in the installation. Except that beforehand that phone rang; suddenly it didn't. The phone works, mind you. It just doesn't ring. Oh well.

And oh yes, starting this month, I get the privilege of paying $5.99 a month (plus the associated taxes and whatnot, no doubt) for the modem that was installed at the time. When I saw this announcement, I suddenly remembered a postcard received many months ago informing me of this upcoming change. I suppose I could have done something about buying the same sort of modem. But I didn't. And now TWC gets to dig deeper into my pocket.

Which is basically how I think of the company -- as an ongoing, protracted drain on my wallet, like via suction or something. It's why for years I've assiduously avoided dealings with the company, except when absolutely necessary. Anytime I contacted them, it seemed to wind up costing me money. I admit I had an easier time this summer when I upgraded one of my boxes to an HD box to accommodate my new TV and when I asked for help with my old DVR box, which turned out to be a museum piece. The replacement box not only is about a third the size but works about 1000 times better. I wonder how many years of substandard service I endured unnecessarily, because I was simply afraid to press TWC on the subject.

So you see, I'm not exactly a TWC enthusiast, and still, in the CBS imbroglio my sympathies are pretty one-sided. I'm not sure I would be any more aggrieved if it had been NBC or CBS (or Fox) that had gone poof! Probably not, which is a reminder of how dramatically my viewing of network TV has declined.

I suppose it will be of some comfort to CBS to know that it's got all those Jets fans on its side.

For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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At 5:32 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

I am switching back to Comcast Tuesday as my 2 year non contract with Verizon FIOS expires and my bill would go up almost 80 bucks. I have phone internet and cable. I have had constant problems with services and I just found on there is a short somewhere ( FIOS phones use wiring unlike Comcast or Vonage ) and it would take hundreds of dollars to fix. I have Showtime but other than that I hate the way Verizon bundles TV BTW..Starz has some decent movies and the Movie Channel is a waste of molecules.

The stations and content providers are greedy and its going to take people cutting the cord. More and more folks are watching online and my daughter's generation ( 20s) NONe of them have tvs and they get Netflix or use bit torrents.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The country would be best served if all "Big Four TV network(s) simply disappearing."

John Puma


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