News Corp. Takes Retrans Fight To New Level Of Annoying
As broadcast networks continue to ask for higher rates, we're continuing to see uglier and uglier fights between cable operators and broadcasters -- with consumers stuck in the middle. These fights have resulted in six blackouts this year (the most since 2000) and have impacted more than 20 million pay-TV subscribers. As we've been covering, these paying customers are being intentionally put in the middle
to be used as negotiations weapons, getting service blackouts and higher rates regardless of which corporation "wins."
As we noted last week
, Cablevision and Fox (News Corp.) are the latest to wage war on this front, though this weekend the annoyance bubbled over into entirely new territory. As the two companies' contract deadline passed on Friday, News Corporation cut Cablevision customers off from accessing local Fox channels (which included an NFL game and MLB playoff game).
However, they took things one step further and managed to get Hulu to block Cablevision customers from accessing Fox content online. That of course is an idiotic move given that while perhaps debatable as a net neutrality offense -- it is an anti-consumer move that will be included in such discussions. It's the first time these disputes have bubbled over into the Internet space, earning quick and justifiable condemnation
by consumer advocates. Hulu initially issued a public statement saying they were "remaining neutral" by only blocking Fox content:
Unfortunately, we were put in a position of needing to block Fox content on Hulu in order to remain neutral during contract negotiations between Fox and Cablevision. This only includes Fox content. All other Hulu content is accessible to Cablevision internet subscribers. We regret the impact on Cablevision customers and look forward to returning Fox content to those users as soon as possible.
We've seen a lot of spin, but blocking consumer access to "remain neutral" is a new one. As soon as News Corporation felt the building wrath of bad press (even over a weekend), they "changed tactics" and restored access through Hulu -- but not before they gave consumers a glimpse of a fairly disturbing future. It's apparently a future where Hulu buckles like wet cardboard for the sake of "being neutral," all the obnoxious, disingenuous
aspects of these retransmission debates move online, and we all pay higher rates for the privilege of participation.