One side dish served up by the Time Warner Cable/Fox rumpus in New York is the possibility that broadcast networks will go cable.
The lure of turning a broadcast network into a cable network,complete with advertising revenues and subscribers’ fees, has always been too tempting, with the attraction of not one, but dual revenue streams.
There’s a premium left in being a broadcast network, as advertisers still pay up for a medium that reaches virtually everyone. Up to 15% of U.S. households do not get cable or satellite. Cut off those sets, says one senior network executive, and “the network premium drops off considerably.” It’s also unclear how much the cable distributors would pay the broadcasters to carry their shows. Some pay fees to local network affiliates but not as much as the cable channels get, say analysts. Could those fees grow? Maybe. But only after striking agreements with a gazillion cable and satellite players. And Andrew Schwartzman, CEO of the Media Access Project, says Job One for a network mulling a switch is “crawling on your hands and knees to Comcast” to get on its cable systems—and not at channel 739.
Just to be sure, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has launched an ad campaign that features this TV spot, which shows everyday Americans looking troubled or frazzled or wind-whipped, while an announcer says:
It’s our connection to our community.
It’s our lifeline to the emergency information we need.
It’s a free service that provides free entertainment.
But one day soon, it could be taken away.
There’s a movement among special interest groups to limit free antenna TV . . .
Among those special interest groups:
Broadcast networks, which supply the programming for most members of the NAB.
Meanwhile, the antennasphere (help yourself) is up in arms over the possibility they’ll have to pay for cable.
Place your bets on who wins this Capitol Hill lobbyist shootout.