For those of you who don't know the situation, basically ABC Broadcasting and parent company, Walt Disney Co., wanted Cablevision to pay an addition $40 million a year. (Now maybe that doesn't seem like a lot, but they already pay Disney over $200 million a year.) Cablevision thought that was way too much money... so Disney-ABC threatened to pull WABC.
Now I don't know if a $40 million increase is fair or not. I don't know who the greedy bastards are in this situation, but I'd guess it was both Disney-ABC and Cablevision. But according to Cablevision, they're still willing to negotiate to come to a fair agreement but Disney-ABC isn't having it. As of last night, WABC went dark, basically making sure that Cablevision's 3.1 million customers won't be watching the Oscars tonight.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, asked both sides to negotiate a deal without the need to pull the channel off the air and even asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to help resolve the issue. In a recent press release Kerry said:
When pulling a signal becomes the nuclear option in negotiation, it inflicts collateral damage on consumers who pay their bills and have done nothing wrong. Someone needs to be speaking up for them in this dispute and those like them, and make no mistake, this is the latest example of consumers getting caught in the middle because the high stakes incentives created in these negotiations are not working for the average customer who just expects their programming to be there when they want it. [WSJ]A lot of customers are now going to be switching to other cable companies, like Verizon Fios, but that only punishes Cablevision for not paying the new fees instead of Disney-ABC for demanding them. I won't claim that Cablevision is totally an innocent victim in this one, but I definitely don't think it's fair that Disney-ABC is basically holding them - or that is, us (the viewers) - hostage. And in the end the only company that will suffer is Cablevision. It's not the Cablevision big-wigs we're worried about... but all the little employees who will possibly lose their jobs if Cablevision loses a ton of money from this dispute. Cablevision is a local comany; I can't even count how many people I know who directly or indirectly make their living through Cablevision and believe me, they have no say in whether WABC stays on the TV or not. (Plus you know that the same customers who are switching from Cablevision over this would be complaining even more if Cablevision did give into ABC's demands and then their cable bills went up as a result.)
By the way, Cablevision is offering all of their pay-per-view On Demand movies tonight for free, so even though you can't watch the Oscars, you can watch some Oscar-nominated movies instead. And you can always catch most of ABC's show online for free anyway.
So I propose that we give the Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group a piece of our minds. Boycott all of The Walt Disney Company's channels and assets - all of them, not just ABC - whether you have Cablevision or not. That includes (among others): A&E, ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, all the ESPNs, all the Lifetime channels, SOAPnet, etc.
Call 1-877-NO-TV-TAX and tell Disney-ABC that you want them to come up with a fair agreement with Cablevision. You can find more information on how to contact ABC via email at Cablevision.com.