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Cable television companies are suffering from consumer approval ratings that continue to plunge headlong for the cellar. And at the same time, networks are trying to deal with their declining revenues by hitting up the cable companies for more money in return for retransmitting their content. Some might say that the cable companies are just getting a dose of their own medicine, as consumers constantly are asked to pay more for the same service they had been getting.

And once again, the negotiations between a network and a cable company may lead to a confrontation where the subscribers are the losers. This time it’s News Corp’s FOX network channels in play for the Cablevision subscribers. The current agreement expires this Saturday, October 16th, just in time for the FOX coverage of the Major League Baseball’s League Championship Series. And guess where many of Cablevision’s subscribers live? In the New York and Philadelphia markets, where the Yankees and Phillies are set to play in their respective championship rounds. And FOX is threatening to pull the plug on its broadcasts if Cablevision doesn’t agree to their terms.

We’ve seen this before, and we’ll see it again, but I don’t expect that consumers will put up with having their programming held hostage for much longer. I expect to see the FCC or the US Congress get involved in this problem since it appears that the networks and cable companies (and satellite companies for that matter) no longer seem to be able to play nice. This probably won’t be in the best interest of either of the warring parties, though there’s a chance that consumers could come out with some sort of a win. Perhaps the government will force a la carte pricing on subscription television services, though I expect that would spell disaster for most of them and many of the network channels.

Posted by Alfred Poor, October 13, 2010 6:00 AM

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About Alfred Poor

Alfred Poor is a well-known display industry expert, who writes the daily HDTV Almanac. He wrote for PC Magazine for more than 20 years, and now is focusing on the home entertainment and home networking markets.