Currently Time Warner cable and Sinclair Broadcasting are battling over the cost of carrier fees or the price paid by the cable provider to carry Sinclair owned stations on their network. Cable subscribers in markets across the United States could be left without programming if the two don’t reach an agreement. Both parties reached an agreement that avoids interrupting service but the threat of losing local channels looms for many.
Let me give some context. Time Warner cable owns a giant pipe that goes into many homes across the country. To make money, they need content to run through these pipes. Sinclair broadcasting owns many different TV stations that broadcast this desired content over the air. They also sell it to cable and satellite broadcasters.
Both Time Warner and Sinclair use the large audience they find on cable to sell advertising around this content. Everyone makes money and consumers get to watch the programming they want without having to adjust an antenna every time it snows.
The problem is, both the pipe and the content provider believe their position is more important than the other. Sinclair believes Time Warner should pay for the privilege of sending their content through the pipe while Time Warner believes Sinclair should be happy to gain a larger audience and more advertising. Both are warning that without an agreement on how much should be paid, the content will be lost from the pipe.
(It’s a little more complicated than that as other parties, including the networks themselves, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS etc., and the federal government, are involved, but that is it in a nutshell.)
Now back to the consumer, remember me? I just want to watch Sunday football and American Idol in peace. Instead, Sinclair has spent the last month or more interrupting my favorite games with annoying text crawls that corrupt the HD signal and make it difficult to watch the game. Their message, “Help us! Evil Time Warner doesn’t want to give into our demands. CALL THEM FOR US! Pretty please?” Their interruptions make me want to call Time Warner and demand they don’t give in. Time Warner is also running ads declaring they are basically being held hostage, making me want to call Sinclair and tell them not to give in either.
Increasingly I have some options to get away from the bickering, including satellite, Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV and other online streaming sources. If I could get the few content sources I care about that demand immediacy, like cable news and sports, sent direct to my TV and in HD with little hassle, I would race to drop both Time Warner and Sinclair from my life.
Their temporary accord means I will no doubt continue to be inundated with annoying messages and threats all because I want to pay for a service both make an enormous profit from…a service I could actually get for free with an antenna and some patience.
I have faith that this will be resolved. I also have faith the issue will only return in the near future. The clock is ticking on what little patience I have and the alternatives look more enticing. In the end, a quick resolution that doesn’t annoy consumers won’t just benefit me, it will keep both parties in business and the competition from snatching me up. Otherwise I will begin looking for true alternatives and tell everyone I know how to join me.