VIACOM! Direct TV Is Right; Let The People Choose

By Ronald Peltier

Being an ardent fan of the AMC show Breaking Bad, I was relieved that my cable subscription provider was Direct TV and not Dish. A carriage fee dispute between AMC Networks and Dish resulted in AMC, and Breaking Bad’s season premiere, being dropped from Dish. AMC responded by offering the season premiere online.  Dropping the show from its service has not adversely affected its ratings as the episode garnered 2.9 million viewers—a record for any single show of Breaking Bad.

But alas, one of my other favorite shows, The Daily Show, has been removed from my cable service.  Viacom and Direct TV are engaged in a dispute related to carriage fees too. According to Direct TV’s CEO Mike White, “Viacom demands that you (Direct TV customers) pay 30 percent more” for the same shows.  In this video, he also states that Viacom refuses to allow its customers to pay for the stations they want. “It’s an all or nothing approach.”

Viacom distributes 26 channels, including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, VH1, CMT, Spike TV, TV Land and more. Viacom is the most watched programmer on DirecTV. So it carries a lot of cachet and affects a whole lot of people: some 20 million subscribers. White suggests that customers should be allowed to buy the shows that they want to watch, a so-called a la carte approach.

This approach makes a whole lot of sense. Of the shows that Viacom distributes, I watch one frequently, Comedy Central. I watch VH1 and Spike when they show something worthwhile on, which is infrequently. And I never watch BET, CMT, MTV or TV Land.  So, then, why should I pay for shows that I simply never watch? In fact, if you are like me, you are puzzled that there are so many channels but so little to watch.

The argument supplied by Viacom is that the popular shows, like Comedy Central, support the niche shows. Okay, but why should they? This is entertainment, not important public service information.  It is not insurance, which one pays for but uses infrequently.  It does not make sense that subscribers should pay for a service that they don’t watch or want. The supposition that it supports other programs simply doesn’t stand scrutiny.  If the ‘niche’ programs don’t make enough money, well then, the market place should determine that. Isn’t that what we often here from the CEOs and business leaders of the world? Let the market decide.

Imagine if you could choose from a selection of channels for one monthly fee.  This idea is not new after all. Would you eat at a restaurant if you were forced to pay for food items that you did not want or even like? “I am sorry, but you must order the fried okra with your Baja shrimp tacos,” the waiter might inform you.

While some may argue that there is too much government regulation, here is a place that they should step in and require Viacom, AMC Networks, Disney, et al., to compete in the entertainment market place and not be subsidized by us.  Surely, Viacom, AMC and all the other programmers can offer a ‘package’ that allows its customers to select which channels they want.  Or perhaps they can work with the providers to come up with something similar.  In the current economic climate, folks are struggling to make ends meet, and if the giant corporations involved in these financial disputes don’t alter their positions, what is a customer to do but cancel their subscriptions and read a book. The library, for example, is free and allows you to choose which books you want to read. What a ‘novel’ concept.

What do you think about this issue?

14 Responses to "VIACOM! Direct TV Is Right; Let The People Choose"

  1. Dan Lee   July 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    We some time ago got rid of cable completely and watch content directly off the internet. If we can’t get it off the internet, we don’t watch it. We pay for a high speed connection and a home theater setup, but we aren’t going to pay for a thousand channels to just watch Stewart and Colbert. I like “Justified,” but I can buy the back seasons for less than twenty bucks a shot from Amazon, and we buy Mad Men and Louie from iTunes. Public radio, and free podcasts, are a far better source of news and cultural information than that insipid “he said she said” trash on television “news.”

  2. Serr8d (@Serr8d)   July 20, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Of course we should have à la carte choices. Who goes to a restaurant and is forced to eat a little of everything they serve? I could care less about 95% of ALL DirecTV programming.

    gOOgle Frank Zappa’s ‘I’m the Slime’, in regards to all the crapola there is on commercial TV! Very little of use or value; and what’s there is commercialized until it’s barely watchable!

    (Oh, and Jon Stewart is an idiot. If you watch him to get your daily news, so are you!)

  3. Tim Swanson   July 20, 2012 at 12:24 am

    I got fed up with direct tv a year ago, cancelled all my TV service and have barely missed it since.

  4. Jay Jay   July 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Government should (and will) step in. Both sides are using customers as “bait” and trying to coerce each other into a deal. It’s like a husband using a child to get the divorced wife to fork over a million dollars to make him happy. If she doesn’t, the kid will be miserable.

  5. Anne   July 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    While I tend to lean towards DirectTV and not raising costs, the fact that DirectTV and MSO are lobbying for reform of retransmission-consent rules may be of some concern.
    Even with DirectTV’s (and any other cable/satellite provider, for that matter) “best” advertised deal, the yearly cost is double or more what it would cost to sign up for Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, AND Netflix combined.

    • Anne   July 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      …. and let’s not forget the FREE peer2peer services such as BitTorrent and all their lovely sites, TPB, isoHunt, etc

  6. Tom S   July 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I’m not a sports fan and the way I see it I’ve been subsidizing all of the sports fanatics in this country for years through these ridiculously high cable and satellite prices. If these practices continue, being able to watch television in ones home will become a luxury only affordable to wealthy Americans. I agree that there should be choices and there should be inexpensive packages for those of us who only want access to a few channels. I’m afraid that will never happen, though, because then the professional sports stars would have to be willing to work for less than $40,000,000 per year and they would never go for that.

    Something’s drastically wrong with our priorities and this is just a result of that.

  7. pumpkin1   July 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Yes, let the viewer decide, but DirectTV has been running for 5 years on an expired contract. They knew this was going to be an issue, but didn’t disclose that to the viewers they contracted with, who are the ones paying the price. Yet they still hold those viewers to their contracts (and their inconsistent billing and sales practices). Am I getting a refund for the channels I was paying for that I no longer receive, or is DirectTV going to give me new choices? Sorry, I blame both parties–Viacom and DirectTV; and as usual, the average consumer is the loser in this deal.

    • Kelly   July 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      You are getting your money’s worth. You get all 8 encore channels free while this dispute goes on.

      • John   July 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm

        My package already had the Encore channels. So I guess I’m also paying for what people are getting for free. Sucks to be me I guess.

        • jesse sutton   July 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm

          amen john and how is this cheeper 4 me im under a new contract for 2yrs so im paying 4 them u agree?

        • winterschild111   July 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm

          same here, and they don’t care

  8. Matt B   July 19, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I like the idea of an a la carte style TV service. Right now I can buy one song instead of a whole album and one movie instead of being forced to purchase multiple movies. Why shouldn’t we be able to purchase one channel and not the whole group? I hate thinking that I am paying for channels that I don’t watch. I see one problem though. The only way companies like Viacom and Disney will let the a la carte style happen is if they are able to make more money. They will come up with a pricing scheme that will sound inciting, but will ultimately cost us more than we are currently paying. As much as a change can be good, if money involved, we the consumer will get screwed.

  9. Aria75   July 19, 2012 at 6:20 am

    We can’t cave in to the greed. People had a life before T.V. Maybe even moreso. I watched Three’s Company and The Jeffersons on TVLand just for the fun of it. I have them on DVD anyway. As far as Daily Show and Colbert I can watch them online. I’m not losing out. It’s Viacom’s loss not mine.


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