Collateral Damage or Target of Opportunity?

20 Oct

HULU-popup1 There’s a nasty battle playing out along the eastern seaboard between Fox Network and Cablevision.

There’s nothing new in the issues. Fox wants Cablevision to pay more for its programming. Cablevision said no. So Fox yanked its programming from Cablevision networks leaving more than 3 million fans in the New York area without access to the National League baseball playoffs. I’m sure the timing was just coincidental.

This, however, was not. When people using Cablevision Internet access tried to find diversion by watching Hulu they were told to bug off. Fox, as part owner of Hulu, decided that if Cablevision customers couldn’t watch their programming on TV they darn sure weren’t going to see it online. And in that decision Fox opened a Pandora’s box of problems.

Let’s start with some basics. The dispute was over programming fees for cable television. No Internet service provider pays for the content you access. If you want to pay for content that’s between the site and you. More importantly this was free to everyone, unless you happen to be on a Cablevision IP address.

Then there was the problem of people who use Cablevision for Internet, but not television, like DishTV or DirecTV subscribers. But the real issue here is that all of a sudden Fox showed the vengeance that opponents of media conglomerates have warned us all to fear.

Play “What If” for a moment. What if your favorite radio station wanted Ford to pay more for its ads, and Ford said no. The logical answer would be that Ford ads don’t run on that station. But Fox’s example suggest that Ford then prevents that station’s its signal from being played on any Ford on the road. Play it out and things get ugly quickly.

Fox later relented, although it insist it had the right to take the action. But now law makers, the FCC, and plenty of attorneys are pouring into the fray. Sadly, none of that put the genie back in the bottle. It seems that we’ve only seen the opening salvo in this battle.

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