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    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Bye, Bye To The CBS Eye

    My non-Iowa readers, and you know who you are, are probably unaware of the little battle we are experiencing between Sinclair “Rightwing Bastards ‘R’ Us Broadcasting and Mediacom Cable. This means that, barring a last-minute resolution, I will no longer have access to CBS on my cable package after tonight.

    You can find a nice summary, though obviously from Mediacom’s point of view, here. To me, the heart of the disagreement appears to be this:

    Mediacom’s lawsuit against Sinclair was driven in large part by our desire to protect the interests of our customers. Sinclair has insisted that Mediacom pay for all of its stations in our service areas in a single package without consideration to the differences in the various markets. We believe this all-or-nothing scheme violates antitrust law.The ultimate result of this “tying” of Sinclair’s stations would be to increase the price of cable television to consumers by millions of dollars. It is not fair to our customers who ultimately bear these costs and we have decided to draw the line by asking a federal court to stop these practices by Sinclair.

    In effect, Mediacom is accusing Sinclair of requiring Mediacom to pay one price for all 23 Sinclair stations in 18 Mediacom markets instead of negotiating individual prices for each market. It’s easy to see how this could result in a nasty increase in the amount Mediacom has to pay for rebroadcast rights for Sinclair stations. Cable pricing is unfair enough as it currently stands; I would never pay for Lifetime on its own, for example, but have to pay for it as part of the package. But at least it is part of the package, and if I choose to watch it I can. Requiring Mediacom customers in eastern Iowa to pay for Sinclair stations in Alabama that are not now and never will be part of our cable package is beyond unfair.

    Sinclair’s statement of the situation is here. It might just be me, and it might just be my opinion of Sinclair, but I find their statement to be a lot more weaselly than Mediacom’s. Most noticeably, there is nothing contradicting Mediacom’s assertion that Sinclair is trying to force Mediacom to pay one price for rebroadcast rights to every Sinclair station in a Mediacom market.

    Now, being without CBS is not that huge a thing for me. The only thing it affects are Survivor (available online), NFL games (don’t really care all that much as CBS carries AFC games and I am an NFC fan), and TAR (ACKKKK!!!). But it is kind of disconcerting to think that a station I grew up with will not be there anymore. Still, I hope Mediacom doesn’t do a massive cave-in; I think Sinclair will be hurt far more, with advertisers jumping ship to other options, than Mediacom. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. At the very least, it inspired this little parody from me:

    So bye, bye to the CBS eye
    Turned my TV to the station but the station was dry
    Them Sinclair boys demand too much of the pie
    Guess I’ll pull the signal down from the sky
    Pull the signal down from the sky

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