Over the air networks to end "free TV" soon?

Fardreamer

DTVUSA Member
#1
Considering the recent issues between Time Warner and the Fox network, it's not surprising (at least not in a business sense) to hear that the traditional TV networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) are seriously considering ending the current "free TV" over-the-air broadcasting and becoming cable-only networks.

Though there are many hurdles - such as how to deal with affiliates and possible consumer backlash - the fact that ad revenues (the lifeblood of most mass media) are drying up and making scripted shows (like dramas and sitcoms) more expensive to do, and the additional fact that many people now actually prefer cable networks such as HBO, Showtime and USA for scripted shows means that it's highly likely that the old networks will, indeed, end the broadcast television era which began in the 1940s and become pay-TV organizations.

Should we, then, consider Comcast's recent acquisition of NBC-Universal as the first step in this not-so-brave new world of television? Do you think that the end of free TV is nearly upon us, or is this just a blustery threat from network execs to get more money from Comcast and other cable companies?
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#2
I think a lot of pundits are deliberately trying to drive people off the rails getting them thinking that the networks really are considering going off-the-air. None of them have said anything of the sort -- it is just inflammatory doggerel designed to make people fearful of what these mean nasty companies are about to do "to them". What we know is that the predominance of scripted programming on over-the-air networks is on the decline, and that there are clear indications that the revenue model that has supported scripted programming on over-the-air networks is in serious danger of collapsing entirely. However, even if all the worst of that happens, it doesn't mean that these networks go away. They each still present significant amount of programming that simply do best over-the-air: News and information, sports, live events, etc. Also, there are a number of programs that could fit within a more modest revenue model, one that might be closer to what over-the-air could sustain long-term, including variety shows, talk shows, reality and competition programming. So, at worst, we're looking at the prospect of over-the-air television changing. Well, it's been changing for more sixty years.
 

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#3
I also think there are basic consumer rights issue at hand here. People can't afford the rising rates of cable, which is just way out of hand. Either the government needs to step in and control that or something else drastic has to happen. Otherwise, you'll going to have a bunch of people not getting the news about anything.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#4
There is no consumer rights issue here. None. People can afford the raising rates of cable. It isn't out of hand. Indeed, service providers work very to figure out how much their offerings are actually worth, and that's how they determine what the charge. As it is, the "news" probably won't be affected by this... what will probably be the end-result is news becoming a lot more of what OTA broadcast channels will be presenting.
 

Fardreamer

DTVUSA Member
#5
I also think there are basic consumer rights issue at hand here. People can't afford the rising rates of cable, which is just way out of hand. Either the government needs to step in and control that or something else drastic has to happen. Otherwise, you'll going to have a bunch of people not getting the news about anything.
I don't know a great deal about the whole Telecommunications Act of 1996, the same one which mandated the switchover to digital broadcasting from analog, but wasn't that originally intended to protect consumers from the ever-rising rates of cable?

I don't want to see over-the-air broadcasting to cease either; right now we can afford Expanded Basic from Comcast and we're paying almost $70 a month for that, so o-t-a free TV is merely a hypothetical concept for us...but what if Comcast raises the fee (as it always does) and we find ourselves canceling our service? I think the programming on over-the-air networks such as NBC is going stale and getting worse (Jay Leno at 10? The Biggest Loser? Come ON!), and most of the good dramas and comedies are on such cable channels as TNT, FX, USA, HBO, and Showtime.

Sure, the traditional networks are still relevant and offer good shows (Fox still has Fringe and 24), but if the old business model implodes, I still don't see why it's so implausible that the networks will go all-cable, with only a few token crumbs of programming left to local affiliates.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#6
I don't know a great deal about the whole Telecommunications Act of 1996, the same one which mandated the switchover to digital broadcasting from analog, but wasn't that originally intended to protect consumers from the ever-rising rates of cable?
No. As a matter of fact, one of the notable aspects of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was that it took away the ability for the FCC to apply rate regulation for upper tiers of cable television, essentially letting the industry determine those rates for themselves.

I think a lot of people tend to look at all legislation that affects them as consumers as being naturally intended to benefit consumers, but that's really not the case. When it comes to national intentions, safety and security, full employment, and healthy economic activity are very often very much higher on our government's priority list than consumers getting stuff cheaper. When consumers are strongly considered, it is protect them from deliberate, criminal fraud, not to get them products and services cheaper.

One really good example of this dichotomy comes up frequently in the TiVo Community Forums. One of the most important bits of legislation as it pertains to TiVo (and really all DVRs) today is the separable security mandate, which required cable companies to support a scheme by which you could buy your own host device (i.e., a DVR) which would still be able to tune in all the encrypted linear services your cable company offers. The regulation required that the security portion of the system, the encryption/decryption logic, be externalized (perhaps, but not necessarily, onto an affordable plug-in card), so the vast majority of the cost of the host device could go to some alternative supplier of host devices. A lot of TiVo people read this regulation as being aimed at providing them a way to save money on renting equipment from cable companies. That was not the intention (nor the effect, really) of the regulation. Instead, the regulation was specifically intended to give alternative host device manufacturers, like TiVo (and later, Digeo, and more recently ATI), an open door to start selling products into this market. The regulation was aimed to benefit businesses that wanted to compete against the incumbent suppliers, Pace, Thompson, Motorola, Cisco, etc. In other words, that regulation was aimed at benefiting business (specifically, new entrants into an established market), not consumers.

The objective of the FCC is often to foster a more competitive marketplace, so that more companies that want to compete in that marketplace can do so. Consumers could sometimes benefit from such efforts by the FCC, but that is not necessarily the primary or overriding intention.
 
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bicker

DTVUSA Member
#7
Sure, the traditional networks are still relevant and offer good shows (Fox still has Fringe and 24), but if the old business model implodes, I still don't see why it's so implausible that the networks will go all-cable, with only a few token crumbs of programming left to local affiliates.
Yes, I see the same possibility. I really see it as a sliding-scale situation:

On one extreme is is total implosion... essentially, viewers stop making purchasing decisions based on television commercials. In that case, there is practically no incentive, whatsoever, to spend much money on programming. We would see networks putting on the lowest-cost programming that can manage to find, with enough news, information, and educational programming to fulfill their obligations, and the rest of the time perhaps filled with reality shows, old reruns, maybe even home shopping.

The other extreme -- I suppose you would call it an ideal -- is pretty much this past decade, the best decade in the history of television AFAIC, even if we still just focus on OTA, and even despite how much good stuff started popping up on cable.

Reality will be somewhere in between, depending on just how far we viewers go in withdrawing the value of our viewership from the equation, vis a vis no longer making purchasing decisions based on television commercials. A mitigating factor will be the extent to which OTA broadcasters can capitalize on Retransmission Consent to effective replace some of the the money that they'd be losing from we viewers withdrawing the value of our viewership (as outlined above), effectively having cable and satellite subscribers subsidizing OTA broadcast programming for everyone.
 

Piggie

Super Moderator
#8
There is no consumer rights issue here. None. People can afford the raising rates of cable. It isn't out of hand.
People that have cable might be able to afford the rising price. Those that can't afford cable the rising.

I might be taking this out of context but to say this means to me it's either been a long time since you lived pay check to pay check or never did.

I was there until I was about 35. I didn't have any debt except my home and car, and the wife's car was paid. I wasn't on food stamps or medical aid of any kind as I made too much, but not enough for luxuries like cable and be sure the lights were on and I could feed my kids.

There was no way I could afford cable, so really at that point of my life raising rates didn't matter to me, as I was OTA 100%. Does that 11% of our society just not matter? In my life time I have seen it becoming more and more true.

It gives me the feeling when you say stuff like this you don't consider that class of society.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#9
People that have cable might be able to afford the rising price. Those that can't afford cable the rising.
Be more explicit: Please cite the precise consumer rights law that is being violated.

You'll find that there is no such law that promises what you think is promised. As a matter of fact, the law that granted the franchise authorities and the FCC the power to regulate the prices of upper-tier cable was repealed in 1982. Deliberately repealed. It didn't lapse. It wasn't an oversight. The bill that went through Congress said, essentially, "That portion of the existing law is no longer law."

I think you're confusing what consumers want with what consumers deserve, as determined by the duly authorized operations of our society, rather than your own personal preference.

I might be taking this out of context but to say this means to me it's either been a long time since you lived pay check to pay check or never did.
Yes, I guess you are taking this out of context, because that has nothing to do with whether or not there is a consumer rights issue here, which was the context of the message I was replying to.

It gives me the feeling when you say stuff like this you don't consider that class of society.
Meanwhile, pretty much every time you reply in this inflammatory and insultingly patronizing manner, it gives me the feeling that you don't have any consideration for the rule of law, for the fair administration of society that balances the needs of all "classes" of society and all facets of society.
 
#10
People that have cable might be able to afford the rising price. Those that can't afford cable the rising.

I might be taking this out of context but to say this means to me it's either been a long time since you lived pay check to pay check or never did.

I was there until I was about 35. I didn't have any debt except my home and car, and the wife's car was paid. I wasn't on food stamps or medical aid of any kind as I made too much, but not enough for luxuries like cable and be sure the lights were on and I could feed my kids.

There was no way I could afford cable, so really at that point of my life raising rates didn't matter to me, as I was OTA 100%. Does that 11% of our society just not matter? In my life time I have seen it becoming more and more true.

It gives me the feeling when you say stuff like this you don't consider that class of society.
Oddly enough, last night I saw (on Fox) an ad from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) titled Keep Antenna TV Free.

I seriously believe that in less than 10 years we will see over-the-air TV vanish or become more and more strictly local as the traditional networks do go all-cable.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#11
I seriously believe that in less than 10 years we will see over-the-air TV vanish or become more and more strictly local as the traditional networks do go all-cable.
But those are two very different eventualities. Having OTA be more locally-oriented, more news- and education- oriented, etc., is not necessarily a bad thing.
 
#12
There are millions of TV viewers using antennas who do not have cable available. The quality and cost of satellite is unacceptable to many as well. In fact, the only reliable high quality HD feed worth watching is OTA, whether watching networks or local. Furthermore, often a good location can achieve 2, 3 or 4 PBS and other smaller networks OTA, with very different programming including locally obtained series, not generally available on satellite. Discussions about removing OTA need to include those, like me, who have no cable options available.
 

BCF68

DTVUSA Member
#13
But those are two very different eventualities. Having OTA be more locally-oriented, more news- and education- oriented, etc., is not necessarily a bad thing.
It is if you're interested in network programming and they go all cable. While many people have OTA because they have no choice. I bet most do have cable and/or satelite available and if all the networks go all cable that will effectively kill OTA. You might have maybe 90% of those using OTA get cable/sat or have no TV at all. Very few are going to be satisfied with just PBS, Jesus and Telemundo.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#14
It is if you're interested in network programming and they go all cable.
Absolutely, it will definitely adversely impact some individuals, but the point is that having OTA be more locally-oriented, more news- and education- oriented, etc., is not necessarily a bad thing for society, overall, taking fair consideration of all factors into account, not just the consumers' perspective nor just the service providers' perspective. The real issue here is that folks shouldn't be crafting an expectation that they necessarily "deserve" free entertainment. That's a house of cards, that very possibly will come tumbling down, because there is no societal basis for developing that sense of entitlement.

Our nation is struggling, today, to add an entitlement to our national conscience, that being the expectation that everyone will be able to afford a certain amount of health care. Health care! That's far more important than entertainment, and yet even with health care entitlement issues there is a fight about whether or not to extend our national conscience to include justification for that expectation. The expectation for free entertainment is not only unjustified, but that idea is not even close to being something our nation is close to considering. And fostering that expectation, here, is a disservice to casual readers.

It does suck. No one is questioning that. I can list myriad things that sucks about being unable to afford many of the non-essentials our society has to offer. However, that does not change the fact that fostering expectations that are counter to the reality is a disservice.

While many people have OTA because they have no choice.
One thing that would be important to note is that many of the folks who rely solely on OTA do so because they can, and see no good reason to pay other people for something that they can get for free. Many, though not all, people like that, if faced with the prospect of losing their free source of entertainment, will find the money to pay for cable/satellite/broadband video/disc rental. Still other people who rely solely on OTA do so because they really don't care enough about television entertainment to warrant every paying for it; they get their entertainment primarily through other mediums. People like that simply will not count with regard to any of this.

That's not to say that there won't be people who rely on OTA and don't fit into either of those two categories. The point is that not everyone who relies on OTA qualifies as someone who will be directly and irrevocably harmed by the continued (because it is already going on and has been going on for a while) migration of television entertainment to cable networks.

I bet most do have cable and/or satelite available and if all the networks go all cable that will effectively kill OTA.
No: That is an utterly unreasonable expectation -- an exaggeration that is so gross that it has no merit even as an indicator. OTA will not be "killed" by the migration of entertainment program to other distribution channels. OTA remains the best means of providing some types of programming, and the need for that programming, and OTA's status as the best means of distributing that programming, will safeguard OTA, unequivocally.

Very few are going to be satisfied with just PBS, Jesus and Telemundo.
"Satisfaction" is a factor. However, I turn you back to my health care entitlement example. Even the strongest supporters of health care reform have to admit that the dissatisfaction that exists with the current situation is, at best, barely enough to make a difference. If health care reform passes, it will be as a reflection of a combination of that dissatisfaction and a very healthy measure of concern for fellow citizens. There are many people who support health care reform who know that they themselves will not be helped by the changes, and that they may even be harmed by the changes. Dissatisfaction, on the part of the folks who are disadvantaged in that scenario, is not, itself, going to be anywhere near enough to make a difference in the health care entitlement debate, nor is it going to be enough to make a difference in any television entertainment entitlement debate. To make your point you need to show that a significant number of folks think of this as a reasonable entitlement -- not just the small number of folks who effectively "need" it to be an entitlement in order to be able to afford it, themselves.

Hard, cold truth. Unadorned by exhortation and blinding passion. Real.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#17
It gives me the feeling when you say stuff like this you don't consider that class of society.
This type of personal comments are not conducive to forum growth.

And what's even more remarkable is that that is the very comment I made the earlier comment in response to. Utterly completely and totally incredible.
 
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U

Unregistered

Guest
#18
??????????????

There is no consumer rights issue here. None. People can afford the raising rates of cable. It isn't out of hand. Indeed, service providers work very to figure out how much their offerings are actually worth, and that's how they determine what the charge. As it is, the "news" probably won't be affected by this... what will probably be the end-result is news becoming a lot more of what OTA broadcast channels will be presenting.
i have no idea what you said here....except i think you beleive that everyone can afford cable and dish rates. um, got any data to prove that? i cant afford it, and i have an antenna
 
G

Guest

Guest
#20
"Very few are going to be satisfied with just PBS, Jesus and Telemundo." You won't have Telemundo either because it's owned by NBCUniversal. However, I'm one of those basically satisfied with PBS, Jesus, & independent Spanish language stations because where I am, all the OTA stations line up & their digital signals cancel each other out. I can't really say I miss TV that much. It's nothing much but a time waster.
 
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