Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
Bronx, New York, United States of America
December 13
Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact for more info.


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JULY 15, 2012 11:21PM

All Viewers Lose in Viacom vs DirecTV Dispute

Rate: 6 Flag
The war between DirecTV and Viacom is the latest example of how television viewers are used as pawns in the financial negotiations between content carriers and content providers. Each one tries to paint the other as the villain, but the point remains that we the home audience are the suckers stuck in the middle, losing access to channels for which we've paid (and often overpaid) and not having any viable power in the process.

This is a problem that will continue unless something is done, either within the industry itself or through legislative regulation to provide the consumer with more choices and more protection, otherwise the "channel blackout" will continue to be a negotiating tactic every time a content contract comes up for renewal.

I have expressed my frustration as I've lost favorite channels and as I've seen the same scenario played out over and over on Cablevision, TimeWarner, and now DirecTV.  To simply sit back and accept this will just give a greenlight to companies like Viacom to continue to ask for outrageously high fees and for satellite and cable companies to pass high licensing costs onto their already overpaying customers.

I wrote on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ if it was naive of me to assume that #DirecTV and #Viacom were still working throughout the weekend to settle their dispute? Sure, customer service and PR pros were hired to respond to viewer outrage, but I doubt any progress was made on Saturday and Sunday by the upper level management to reach a fair agreement and end the multi-channel blackout. Customers continue to pay the price.

Here are what some of my friends have said in response:

Peter commented: "Which is why we should only have to pay for and get the channels we want. Having my cable costs go up for channels I don't watch is BS."

JoEllen wrote:  "I have a bundled triple play w/ Comcast. Friday I called to drop my movie channels in order to cut costs b/c there is never anything I like on them anyway. My plan was to use On Demand to see the new releases when they come out. No dice...! If I drop them I'm going out of the triple play and therefore become a la carte. They were able to save me 4 bucks a month by cutting the price of my non-DVR box in half. Gee thanks, Comcast. They get you coming and going. I would change, but Verizon isn't set up in my area yet, and Comcast knows it, so they were less willing to make me an offfer."

A la cart pricing is good for people who only watch a few select channels, but for people like me who watch a lot of different shows on different networks, that could end up being even more prohibitively expensive. If it was a la cart pricing SHOW-by-SHOW rather than CHANNEL-by-CHANNEL, that might work, but they would never agree to that.

Debbie joined the debate and said: "Yeah, I agree, show by show might work. I'm totally out of the demographic for Spike TV, for instance, but I enjoy their show Auction Hunters. This seems to be the sign of the times--we lost our local FOX station for quite a while over a pricing dispute."
So what can we do?  The best model is to give everyone affordable access to everything and supplement the cost with non intrusive advertising based on accurate true measurement of the audience, not the antiquated Nielsen sampling crap.

Viewers might feel helpless and powerless, but the more this goes on the sooner the day will come when we will abandon "traditional" television altogether and fully embrace other platforms for our media consumption and ever-improving user-generated content as our more affordable and less restricted entertainment and news sources. Until then, my 3-year-old daughter wants her Nick Jr. back, my wife wants her MTV back, and I want my Comedy Central back. Let's see how long it takes.

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Well said. And I want my AMC. It better get back on the Dish lineup by the time Mad Men starts up again, or Dish will be history in my household.
And I'm so tired of the propaganda spewing forth from both sides -- if only they were using as much energy to reach a speedy resolution.
For one of the "most read" posts there are amazingly few comments. Has it occurred to anyone that this is a massive game of corporate chicken? Viacom is betting that their channels - some of which I like, some which I don't - is so utterly attractive that DirecTV will have no choice but to charge us subscribers a whole ton of money to keep watching them. DirecTV is betting that its subscribers, already paying a hefty fee for their service, will shame Viacom into backing down.

If this were, say, 1980, before these entities were megacorporations, this battle would be pretty ho-hum. People would get along without Viacom's channels just fine; after all, there are lots of channels now, running roughly equivalent programs. In fact, Comedy Central, one of the channels currently blocked out, was the result of one of those competitions. It was formed by the unwilling merger of The Comedy Channel and HA!, two competing program services.

But now the media megacorporations must restage World War II whenever they clash, leaving lots of bodies - us ordinary people who want a little entertainment - lying dead on the battlefield. Despite what the insane people who run business schools have been teaching, these companies are not "too big to fail" - they are too big to live, if ordinary humans want their own chance to live. A government with courage and integrity would reinstate and severely enforce antitrust laws to break them up, so these clashes of titans would not occur.
I'm kind of glad I lost my Directv service, most of the channels I watch are now blocked!

Take that not having money to pay the bill!! :D
DirecTV is telling us that if they give in to Viacom's demandas they will be forced to relay the price increase to us the customers. In return, Viacom just sent us an email stating: "Our deal with DIRECTV is seven years old. In that time alone, DIRECTV raised their rates an astonishing 52%. We are asking DIRECTV for an increase of only 2 cents a day per subscriber for our 26 channels — that’s 2 cents for all of the channels, not 2 cents per channel. It is a fair request. Consider this: DIRECTV is projected to make $5 billion in profit in 2012 alone. All of this money in DIRECTV’s bank means that they can afford to pay a couple of pennies a day for these channels and that they don't need to pass these costs on to you."

Who to believe? Obviously, as I said, we the viewers are the pawns and we are the ones who pay the ultimate price either in lost content that we previously paid for or in the threat of higher television bills.

The answer might be to cancel our television subscriptions altogether and neither DirecTV nor Viacom will get our money or our eyeballs.
Apparently, some of my readers have had difficulty posting comments to my posts. I think it's a conspiracy by the content carriers and content providers to silence my voice! Haha. Carry on, true believers, carry on.
I am really upset about losing the ability to watch Stewart and Colbert. What can we do, though? I'm locked into a contract,which apparently only I have to honor -- they can reduce the service without consequence? But I dumped Comcast for service issues and I dumped AT&T U-Verse for even worse service issues, so where else am I to go? I hate them all.

I miss Stewart and Colbert, my son misses Nick Jr, and my mom and stepdad miss TV Land. Alas, what to do. I live in the boonies and don't have any other options besides Dish. And there's no way I'm doing without The Walking Dead (on AMC). This is all making me want to give up TV altogether, which I should've done years ago. Imagine what I might've accomplished!
Nick, expect all the big players to resist accurate cable viewership numbers, which have been possible for a very long time of course. Content providers won't like it because Nielsen's are inaccurate and they know it, and that threatens advertising dollars on their biggest products. Service providers won't like it because it will show discerning people what their channel packages, however they're priced, are really worth. Hey, why am I paying all this money when there are a lot more people watching this than I thought? And vice versa. It would be wonderful though to find out how many people actually like obnoxious programming like The Voice and X Factor.