Cable-broadcaster fights reflect changing ecosystem

Time Warner Cable recently forged a new agreement with Fox to keep Fox programming on its cable systems after Fox had threatened to pull its broadcast content from Time Warner Cable if the cable TV firm did not agree to a $1 per subscriber fee for airing the content. It is not clear if the new deal involves that desired fee, but it is clear that the cable TV giant and the broadcast giant narrowly avoided escalating a battle between service providers and broadcasters that is only likely to become more common.

Cablevision has been having a similar spat with Scripps Networks Interactive over fees for Food Network and HGTV content. In an era when broadcaster advertising has seriously dipped, with some of it moving to cable TV operators themselves and more of it poised to move to telco TV operators, broadcasters are trying to use their remaining leverage, reminding operators that content is still king.

Of course, that latter notion might be why a cable TV company like Comcast is moving to acquire broadcast giant NBC Universal. If ad revenues have shifted over to the service provider platforms, maybe the service providers can mollify these spats by sharing more of that new-found revenue.

You have to wonder if the service providers who choose to enhance their influence over programming by augmenting their content assets through acquisition are speeding ecosystem changes that potentially will encourage similar fee fights. After all, those service provider content owners should want top dollar from other service providers for running their content.

For now, this seems like a cable operator vs. broadcaster issue, with customers increasingly concerned that they will shoulder the changing fee model in the form of higher subscription prices. That is something that telcos and other cable TV competitors might be able to take advantage of in the short term.

For more:
- The New York Times has this AP story

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