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The Media Businesses Media Television

Time Warner/Viacom Rift Healed, Pending Details 75

Posted by timothy
from the idiot-boxers-hit-the-showers dept.
jwilcox154 writes "Yesterday a dispute over fee hikes had threatened a damaging blackout at a minute past midnight Thursday that would have prevented TWC subscribers from watching their favorite shows such as 'SpongeBob SquarePants' and 'The Colbert Report.' The two sides reached an agreement on Thursday, the first of January 2009. The companies stated the terms of the deal were not disclosed. Details must still be finalized over the next few days."
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Time Warner/Viacom Rift Healed, Pending Details

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  • Welcome to 2009, not 2008...
    • by Coopjust (872796) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:13PM (#26296305)
      I guess timothy is still living in the year of Linux on the desktop...

      (Ubuntu user here, sorry for the tired old joke :P )
      • (Ubuntu user here, sorry for the tired old joke :P )

        No, a tired old joke would be making a comment on Duke Nukem Forever's release date. Then again, when something has been in development that long, everything about it (jokes, developers, the earth on a geologic timescale) gets pretty old.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Hey, if they are squabbling over this sort of thing, it does seem much more fitting to be in the past.

      2008 may have indeed been a more accurate description. Personally, I think it should be renamed:

      2008 - Year of the RIAA.
    • Didn't you know? All one has to do is add at least one typo, thinko, and/or misspelled word to the summary to guarantee the story will be accepted by an editor. ;-)
  • Just Wondering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:08PM (#26296271)

    How much do you think Viacom will be paying to distribute its commercials to Time-Warner subscribers?

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:13PM (#26296307)

    I have Time Warner Digital Cable, have had it for years, as Time Warner has a true monopoly on nearly all of the areas in Central and Upstate New York that I've lived in. My NYC apartment as well has Time Warner Digital Cable as well as getting a phone line and internet package was a cheap deal at the time and still is.

    But have I turned on my cable boxes in the last two years? Not really. Everything I watch is downloaded or streamed on my PC. Instead of watching Major League Baseball, I use MLB's official MLB.TV video and radio streaming service. Episodes of LOST, South Park, Robot Chicken? Torrents usually. Some of them pirated, some I pay extra for. Either way it's still the same programming but different media.

    Time Warner could literally blackout 99.9% of the channels (with Digital Cable I get over 500 channels of pure crap) and it wouldn't affect my TV viewing habits because I've made a complete transition to viewing media on my PC (or using VGA out to my HDTV) rather than from a cable box.

    Even with HBO On-Demand that I pay for I still prefer to download episodes of shows or movies from the internet and just run them off my Laptop or my PS3's hard drive and onto my HDTV.

    When is cable going to switch to à la carte programming and not forcing hundreds of wasted bandwidth and channels on the consumer?

    What sense does it make to offer me 1000 channels, that's 1000 x 24 hours of programming a day...who has the time to watch that? Melchior? The Nu?

    Give me à la carte or give me death. I'll pay for my cable as 'stealing' HBO without paying for it is not cool in my book, but the box remains unplugged so far in 2009.

    • by barzok (26681) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:27PM (#26296411)

      When is cable going to switch to à la carte programming and not forcing hundreds of wasted bandwidth and channels on the consumer?

      I suspect it'll happen as soon as the content providers (like Viacom) do the same and stop forcing companies like TW to take all 20 channels even if they (or their customers) only want 10 of them.

      IOW, TW can't give you á la carte because Viacom doesn't make it reasonable to do so, or doesn't allow it at all. Viacom will get $2.25/subscriber/month regardless of whether all the subscribers take 1 or 20 of the Viacom channels. So why bother with the extra overhead of letting the subscriber choose when it doesn't reduce any costs for TW?

      • The cable companies can point out how many customers don't have a choice, and will lose that channel (but not internet distribution of it.) We're getting to the point that the content delivery isn't so important, and that can be both good and bad for the cable companies, who are also ISP's.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Ala Cart Cable isn't going to be much better, the channel owners will claim they need some large sum of money for ala cart purchases because of the lost revenue stream or "self promotion" or whatever their bundles currently offer.

        Taking greed into account from both the Cable providers and the channels owners, I suspect your ends up with something like $5 a channel with a minimum of 5 channels or something like that when going ala cart (if it was possible). I think too many people are thinking it would be so

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      You could just rent the DVDs for most of the stuff on HBO, and there's a free (audio) podcast of Bill Maher's show. Seems to me you could probably cut down to a lower video package, if you're really not watching (even 'indirectly') those channels.

  • Personally, I wish it did go off the air. TWC was talking refunds if the channels went dark. although I doubt they would refund the money, it would have been nice since I wouldn't miss any of those channels.

    If it goes up because of this agreement all of a sudden however, I'm switching to Dish. For once, I was actually hoping a CableCo would stand up to unnecessary rate hikes. At least Dish Network let the channels go dark for a few days to put the pressure on.

    • by LtGordon (1421725) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:33PM (#26296453)
      You may not personally watch any of the Viacom channels but I guarantee you that a very large portion of homes with TWC cable service do watch them. We're talking at minimum all Nick, VH1, MTV, and Comedy Central channels.

      Viacom knows this and has TWC by the balls. The last few days all of these channels had non-stop banners that made it sound like the big bad giant CableCo was going to cut the channels out of spite. In my opinion, TWC seemed to have done about as well as they could in the business sense: they held out as long as they could without incurring a loss, and probably made the best deal they could get. Remember, this is a business, i.e. having "balls" just as often means getting kicked in them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Except that Viacom already provides a lot of that programming online for free, and what Viacom doesn't provide can easily be found through less-official sources - a fact which TWC has been gleefully pointing out for the past day or so. TWC can live without Viacom's content by charging more for access to bandwidth, which can in turn be used to access the content. Viacom, OTOH, doesn't get nearly as much revenue from online eyeballs as it does from eyeballs watching the TV. Their choices are to start charging
      • I don't know if their contract allows this, but the minute those banners showed up on their programming, TWC should have pulled those channels and replaced them with a nice graphic telling Customers that Viacom expects you to pay more and tell them to stop. Complete with a nice 1-800 number going to viacom HQ.

        And as for market loss... I don't know if it would be that much of a loss. No one other than Dish Network went longer than 2 days, and I doubt they lost a ton of customers over it. And if you factor in

      • by Zuato (1024033)

        This isn't the first time Time Warner has played hard ball and forced a group of channels off the air in the last 12 months. In Central Ohio they've done this twice now, well almost twice - the Viacom thing was averted at the last minute but the first instance was earlier in the year with the CW I think it was and their affiliated channels. I didn't care much to lose the channels, but my mother-in-law sure did and raised a big stink about it.

        Then there was the highly publicized Big-10/Time Warner spat too -

  • A poster on yesterday's thread [slashdot.org] claiming to be the "director of digital communications at Time Warner Cable", stated that lost channels would be refunded to some degree on bills.

    I take it that this latest agreement will also be, um, represented in the upcoming bills also?

    It's the jobs of both companies to raise the shareholder value - and the best agreement in that scenario would be to agree to take more from customers.

    The original suggestion of using the Internet to access programming is starting to look be

    • by Hes Nikke (237581)

      you should check out what leo laporte is doing with http://live.twit.tv/ [live.twit.tv] he says that he gets as many viewers for his flagship show as tech tv ever got on cable. Sure the network only runs for like 30 hours a week, but the staff is TINY. This is the wave of the future.

    • by memnock (466995)

      It's the jobs of both companies to raise the shareholder value - and the best agreement in that scenario would be to agree to take more from customers.

      i think it's time to find a way to stop making everything beholden to the shareholders' wishes. whether it's allowing a company to exist for only a certain time or something else, somehow corporations have to be reined in.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:26PM (#26296397) Journal

    Now its time for an alternative source of revenue. Unfortunately we are the ones who are going to pay for it as Time Warner and others have shareholders to meet and need to raise the price.

    Thank god I do not watch TV that much anymore thanks to the internet. Maybe that is a good thing as some tier packages are approaching $100 and its ridiculous.

    People unfortunately will pay big bucks for entertaining as witnessed from cell phones and TV packages. So why not charge more?

  • Subject (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:33PM (#26296455) Homepage

    "The companies stated the terms of the deal were not disclosed."

    I'll field this one. Viacom extorted a shitload out of TWC for the privilege of keeping the channels. For its part, TWC has agreed to rape its customers with even less lube to make up the difference.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      See, thats actually the problem

      Viacom, being the assholes they are, assume that all of TWCs profits from Television were coming from Viacoms contract. so they wanted more of that. (which was under wrong assumption)

      Normally, cable providers don't make much of a profit from the networks, so if Viacom wanted a 'raise' then that would be passed to the end consumers, which in the end would have been well into the millions. and Viacom wanted the extra per subscriber, not a % based increase from last years contrac

    • Re:Subject (Score:5, Informative)

      by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:21AM (#26296761)

      From the mouth of the TWC CEO:

      Link #1 [longreply.com] "Viacom is trying to extort another $39 million annually"

      Link #2 [longreply.com] Viacom threatens to block TWC subscribers from accessing their free online content. They not only insinuate this to TWC during negotiations, but apparently also to subscribers using TWC's ISP as evidenced by this screenshot [twitpic.com].

      • A low blow (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 87C751 (205250)
        Viacom played a little dirty. The Time-Warner phone number in that screenshot (which was also shown on a crawl across all the Viacom channels the evening of the 31st) is the RoadRunner trouble reporting number. Nice of Viacom to dump on the RR help desk, who arguably didn't have any part of this fight.
    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      Viacom extorted a shitload out of TWC for the privilege of keeping the channels. For its part, TWC has agreed to rape its customers with even less lube to make up the difference.

      ...and extort a shitload out of rival cable operators for the privilege of keeping its channels. [wikipedia.org]

    • by Stiletto (12066)

      For its part, TWC has agreed to rape its customers with even less lube to make up the difference.

      It's not rape if the customers pay for it, and continue to pay for it.

      I always chuckle when someone says "XYZ company is raping/screwing/(other sexual act) its customers!" It's not like someone's putting a gun to your head and forcing you to buy TV service!

  • I never watch MTV - no more music videos, instead FAKED SCRIPTED(reality?) shows and contrived pc interracial multicultural dating shows.

    It would be nice if there were alacarte.

    Or even new shows NOT owned by one of the few production companies out there. Where is the variety?

    In the end cabletv will die out with real fiber to home internet access which is affordable.

    • MTV's Palladia is actually a really excellent channel. Harkens back to the days when MTV actually played music videos, except in this case, it's almost entirely live sets. (Concerts, Unplugged, etc.) Good channel to check out, if you're lucky enough to get it.
  • Why hasn't Viacom produced a 24 hour Spongebob channel? At any given moment, there is a very high probability that Spongebob is on one of the Nick channels. Why not give people some consistency and let them find Spongebob at his very own channel?

  • icravetv.com (Score:4, Insightful)

    by similar_name (1164087) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:55AM (#26296929)
    Anyone remember icravetv.com back in the 90s. They were in Canada and used to stream ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and a few others. At the time under Canadian law it was legal for companies to redistribute content as long as they didn't alter it. The law was intended to help rural areas. The idea was that as long as you weren't altering the content, the content creators benefited because they could reach more viewers and thus charge more for commercials. As much as I hate TWC why should they pay Viacom anything for increasing the viewer base.

    TWC should only have to charge people for the pipe not the content. We watch commercials to pay for the content. I understand paying for premium channels but paying for ad-laden channels that fill most of cable is ridiculous.

    BTW I seem to remember that one of the networks had icravetv.com shutdown prior to the super bowl because it would diminish the value of the event. I don't know how letting everyone who wants to watch commercials hurts you but then again that's my whole point.
    • There's a simple reason TWC pays for these channels. They plaster their own commercials all over them. Cable companies are in the advertising business. Call them up and you can get your ads on any channel you like, even Viacom channels, and only in your local area.

      So, given that TWC gets to put the ads on the channels, why shouldn't TWC pay for the channels?

  • Not even trying to troll. It really is. It took a few months of living without it for me to realize it.

    Yeah, I'll still watch the Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy -- go figure, the guy saying TV is stupid is watching questionable shows -- but, jesus, I've had "Dude, Where's My Car?" on as background noise since it started. I'm watching the gag reel at the end right now, and it's the first time I've actually paid attention to it. No shit, this is what's on TV. Check my local listings if you don't belie
    • by tepples (727027)

      If my TV fell off the "entertainment center" tomorrow, I wouldn't feel too bad about it.

      I would feel bad about it, but only to the extent that I also use my TV as a monitor for my game consoles and my gaming PC.

  • by BCW2 (168187)
    It's called money. TWC paid and Viacom released the hold on their balls. TWC customers/victims will see an increase in their bills as usual. The smart ones will drop TWC and go satellite.

    In 9 years with TWC my bill was never the same 2 months in a row. They always wanted a few extra pennies.
    I don't have that problem with DirectTv and get twice the channels for a $5.00 increase.
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:57AM (#26299183)

    My wife decided to call Viacom and complain about their demanded 22-36% rate increase. The minute the woman heard her say "I'm a Time Warn...", my wife was switched to a recorded message blaming Time Warner for the whole mess and giving a Time Warner number to call to complain to. In other words, Viacom didn't want to hear any complaints and was trying to direct the ire of subscribers back to Time Warner.

    Time Warner employees, however, saw my wife complaining on Twitter and gave her information on who to contact in Viacom. They also told her that it was unlikely that they would answer though as they had taken off until Monday morning. In fact, when Noggin and the rest didn't go black at 12:01am, we wondered if they were all just out of the office and forgot to leave someone there to shut the feed off.

    Instead, it looks like Viacom asked for 22-36% and "settled for" 15%.

  • something similar happening in the past.
    • by horatio (127595)

      I have no love for TWC, I dropped them a few months ago over continuing issues with their cablecard support. I'm not saying that TWC is at fault in this case, but this is the third specific time I can think of in the last few years where TWC has threatened to or has cut off access to programming over a dispute with a content provider. It seems like each time a content provider is twisting TWC's arm to charge more for content already provided, or to provide additional channels at additional cost to the cus

      • This is the third time in the PAST YEAR that TWC has played the silly victim card (we three different content providers). I'm switching to AT&T UVerse on Monday. I gave TWC the benefit of the doubt the first time--was a bit more skeptical the second--now I'm convinced they are just trying to max their profits all-the-while playing the victim.
  • Now that we will soon have President Spend-Thrift Obama in power, Viacom and Time Warner will ultimately have to play fair or be swallowed up in one governmental agency or another for it. Since Viacom was seeking an increase in revenue stream from these particular shows in question, this generally means that Mr. Obama will simply make them pay more taxes. He did say during his campaign that he would be increasing taxes on everyone! So as a result, all you American (socialist) citizens will either get to see

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