Since October 16, every time I turn on my TV I see this:
I’ve recently wised up and changed the channel to which my cable box defaults, but that message still plays all day, on both Fox 5 and a dedicated alert channel. I was not able to watch one minute of the NLCS on my TV, and it it’s a certainty that when the World Series commences tomorrow night that I will have to find an alternative way to watch it. You might understand my rage over this issue.
The point of conflict, predictably, is money. Fox wants a raise. Cablevision isn’t willing to pay the amount Fox has demanded. The two sides were not able to agree on a rate by the October 16 deadline, and so Fox pulled its programming from Cablevision. This hit first on Saturday night, when the Giants played the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS, and then hit again on Sunday when the New York Football Giants played the Detroit Lions. Giants fans have something of a reprieve, as they played on ESPN this week and have a bye next week. But baseball fans still must seek an alternative for the World Series.
Calling Cablevision about the matter is pointless. From their phone menu I selected the option regarding Fox programming, but it was just another propaganda-filled recording. During the message they note that should Cablevision acquiesce to Fox’s demands, our cable bills will go up. But when I finally got through to a customer service representative, I was informed that Cablevision was not issuing refunds for Fox service. So we’re either paying more for the same service, or we’re paying for a service we’re not receiving. Yet that that is not my biggest complaint about this spat.
That I have to go Radio Shack and buy a digital TV antenna is absurd. I cut Cablevision a check every month for my cable service. In exchange, they deliver me the appropriate channel package. Fox is included in that package. Now I have to cut the same check as every month, only for a lower level of service. Not only that, but I have to spend between $25 and $50 on a digital TV antenna, so that I can actually watch the World Series this year. The worst part is that watching the World Series this year is not optional.
If you haven’t yet noticed, we’re supplying WPA-based recaps for ESPN this postseason. If you click through the dates here you can see the FanGraphs content from the LDS and LCS. We’re set to do it again in the World Series. How can I recap a game I haven’t watched? This requires me to either 1) go to a bar, or 2) buy an antenna. Since recaps and bars don’t go well together, and since my wallet appreciates me not going to a bar every game of the World Series, the antenna is the only practical option if I want to do my job. Cablevision and Fox, in other words, are preventing me from pursuing my livelihood.
(It’s not all work related, of course. Even if I didn’t work for FanGraphs I’d want to watch the World Series, because it’s the goddamn championship of the sport with which I’m unhealthily obsessed.)
This isn’t the first time Cablevision has sparred with a content provider. Earlier this year ABC pulled its programming over the same money issue. That cut into the Oscar’s broadcast, and service was restored about 20 minutes into the program. We aren’t that lucky with Fox. We’re currently in Day 11 of the blackout, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Cablevision has agreed to binding arbitration, which would settle the matter immediately. Fox hasn’t, because that would be to concede the negotiations. They’re not going to get anything near what they’re seeking in arbitration.
Both parties are to blame in this. Fox’s parent company, News Corp., wants to change the way it is compensated for its programming. Cablevision wants to keep the status quo. Caught in the middle of their spat are millions of consumers in the New York Metro area. I do not think Cablevision customers should stand for this. We pay them to deliver content, and they are not holding up their end of the deal. They put the blame on Fox, but that’s just propaganda. Similarly, Fox’s effort, Keep Fox On, tells only one side of the story and distorts the other. All consumers need to know is that both sides are failing them.
Tonight I will go and purchase a digital TV antenna so that I can watch the World Series. But once I do, that’s the end of Cablevision in my mind. I will not be held hostage by two companies that clearly do not care about me. There’s nothing I can do about Fox, since they’re a network channel. But I can let Cablevision know that I won’t stand for their actions. I urge my fellow baseball fans to do the same. We need not continue paying for service we’re not getting, and then pay for an additional device, along with our full cable bills.