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My Favorite Martin

Phil Harvey
12/12/2005

4:45 PM -- Mommy! Mommy! Kevin Martin is missing the point (again).

From this morning's PR pile, a statement from the FCC chairman about the availability of "family tiers," or groups of channels that have family-friendly programming:

I am pleased that some cable companies may respond to consumer demand and begin to voluntarily offer family tiers. For several years, I have been urging the cable and satellite industry to give parents additional tools to help them address the increasing amount of coarse programming on television. Offering a family-friendly package has always been one of the options I supported.

I look forward to hearing more about the details of their plans and hope that it will provide parents with real options to address parents’ legitimate concerns with having to purchase programming that they believe is unsuitable for their children.

And now, The Philter's response to Chairman Martin's statement:

The only tool a good parent needs to deal with coarse programming on TV is the remote control.

Seriously, Chairman Martin, stop bothering service providers, and let the cable and satellite industry program their services however they wish. It's hard enough for them to make a buck in the TV delivery business without some glorified hall monitor offering to sanitize the universe for four year-olds.

Four year-olds are sweet, precious, and they deserve the best entertainment available -- so let their parents figure out what that is.

And know this: your words wouldn't seem so meddlesome if they were coming from a man who was making it possible for all Americans to have real broadband access (5 Mbit/s and up), or a man who was working hard to ensure that the rest of the world isn't lapping the U.S. in the race to provide 3G and 4G mobile broadband services.

You may well be doing those things, but the only impression a lot of people have of you is that (1) you are hellbent on making sure broadcasters are saying things like "heckbent" on their networks, and (2) you look like you could be the drummer for The Wiggles.

Item 1 goes way beyond greenlighting a bunch of mergers. It involves talking more about creating some real incentives for companies to wire this land from sea to shining sea and less about the seven dirty words, the eight-second delay, and the travesty that there really are guys out there named "Mike Hunt."

The RBOCs' plans to build FTTRG (fiber to the rich guy) is a great start, but there's much more work to be done to encourage true broadband access everywhere.

I don't know how to fix Item 2. Try wearing less yellow.



— Phil Harvey, Common Sense Editor, Light Reading

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optodoofus
optodoofus
12/5/2012 | 2:50:44 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
Phil,

I had a very different response to the recent family tier developments. While I agree whole-heartedly that it is the parent's responsibility to monitor their children's viewing habits to insure suitability, I applaud the cable companies providing some choice (however meager) in what programming one can purchase. I think there are very few people who really want all the channels that come bundled in with the so-called basic cable packages. But they have no choice; they have to take it or leave it. And if they take it, they have to pay for it. So, if you don't really care for or want to watch The Jewelry Channel (for example), too bad. You have no choice. Of course, since there will only be a family tier bundle, you're trading one non-granular bundle choice for two. Not great progress, but at they are swaying in the right direction. What we really want is a la carte programming. I'll gladly pay for what I consume, but I don't want to pay for channels I don't like and never watch.

optodoofus.
DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 2:50:29 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
Whatever wrapper they're putting around it, it's still substandard choice. Either let us pick and choose our channels -- or don't. I'd much rather the cable cos. take an all or nothing approach than this family tier business only because it smacks of censorship.

And as history has taught us, anything that pleases the FCC can't possibly be good for the American public.

ph
rjmcmahon
rjmcmahon
12/5/2012 | 2:50:27 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
If I heard this right, a rural cable co wanted to offer only ABC and not the bundle which included ABC. ABC said they were willing to do the deal if the cable co paid for the channel. The cable co representative said that their subscribers would have to pay $4 more per month for an only ABC option compared to no incremental costs for the bundle. So one conclusion (valid or not) is that advertisers are paying to get their messages across these bundles and if society wants a la carte programming it will require shifting programming costs from advertiser to consumer. Many don't think the consumers will pay therefore the ad spewing bundles.

Family tier would be something done to appease congress in their attempts to address the public outcry about indecency on TV.
turing
turing
12/5/2012 | 2:50:25 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
I'm sure if a video provider could offer a family-firendly bundle, and there was demand for it, they would. But my sense is they can't.

For example I get Dish Networks (Echostar) satellite. The CEO tried to un-bundle channels to provide ala carte selection. The networks wouldn't let him. Dish stopped broadcasting a set of channels for a while because of their battle with the network over it. I think it was HGTV that they wanted to offer separately from some others, and its owned by the same company that runs DIY, Food, and Fine Living, and some local ABC/NBC stations - but I think it was distributed by a company that bundled other things?

But I think this is more about MTV, which owns Comedy Central and MTV channels (non-family-firendly?) and Nickelodeon and TV Land (the definition of family-friendly).
rjmcmahon
rjmcmahon
12/5/2012 | 2:50:24 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
I'm sure if a video provider could offer a family-firendly bundle, and there was demand for it, they would. But my sense is they can't.

It's technically possible. I'd guess the issue is one of economics. A content provider makes more money by selling ads to an audience dispersed across the bundle than it gets from subscription fees for individual channels. Hence to maximize its revenue a content provider bundles channels.

The CEO tried to un-bundle channels to provide ala carte selection. The networks wouldn't let him.

According to the ABC executive they would allow for unbundling but they needed to be compensated for the programming. In other words, they perceive the advertising revenue would decrease in an a la carte model and somebody would have to make up the difference. The Echostar CEO probably didn't want to pay the difference.
turing
turing
12/5/2012 | 2:50:19 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
A content provider makes more money by selling ads to an audience dispersed across the bundle than it gets from subscription fees for individual channels. Hence to maximize its revenue a content provider bundles channels.

Yes but that's a content provider. The Cable CO's are only part of the equation. The FCC would need to force the networks (for lack of a better term) to unbundle their offerings to the cable Cos.
BTW, I'm not sure that the network gets more revenues for ads than fees for the less popular channels. It's their lack of popularity that makes the networks bundle them i assume.
rjmcmahon
rjmcmahon
12/5/2012 | 2:50:17 AM
re: My Favorite Martin
Yes but that's a content provider. The Cable CO's are only part of the equation. The FCC would need to force the networks (for lack of a better term) to unbundle their offerings to the cable Cos.

Media companies probably wouldn't go for being forced to unbundle by government fiat. I don't know what the FCC could do to force the issue. Asking for a family tier is probably the low hanging fruit and about all they'll get.

(Note: It doesn't seem possible to create a family tier on the internet and next generations will spend more time there then watching TV so people worried about decency will probably have to teach their kids to self regulate.)

It's their lack of popularity that makes the networks bundle them i assume.

I have no advertising expertise but my guess is that the media companies target different demographics with their ads. A less popular program still builds a specific enough audience, i.e. a different demographic, where they can target their ads. The channels get bundled because media companies want to be able to sell ads to the aggregate audience.
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