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Cable woes

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According to a report from Variety, cable companies have been secretly charging customers for switching to less expensive cable packages when what they should be doing is offering more discounts to the customers that chose to stick with them.

Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) charges a onetime fee of $4 when customers switch to a less expensive package, a rep for the company told Variety. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) charges between $1.99 and $5.99 for such downgrades, the company confirmed to the news source. Neither company lists those charges on their websites. Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) charges a downgrade fee of $5, but only if the change comes within 30 days of the customer’s last package change. More here.
 
Never had cable but I sure do love our Roku box and Netflix. Has anyone ever had a GOOD cable TV experience?

Comcast keeps looking for ways to attract more ‘cord-nevers’

Comcast continues to look for ways to reach out to the "cord nevers," the generally younger folks who don't much care to watch TV over a TV set.  Most of those people tend to all or most of their entertainment on devices via the web.

Cord-nevers are unrelated to the cord-cutters, the growing population of folks who are ditching satellite and cable programming. Comcast along with other providers realize they have to do what they can to reach both groups and make connections.

Hence, when Comcast announced its new updated app called Xfinity TV Go, a quote from one Comcast exec said: .“Television isn’t just about the living room anymore.”

The new TV Go app lets customers watch up to 35 television channels over the web on Apple and Android-powered mobile devices.

The way we understand it, those are 35 live channels that can be streamed direct to a device. Instead of locking up your office PC watching CNN, the app lets you stream it to your iPad.

We want to know if it works with the Amazon Fire devices. Haven't heard the answer on that yet.

The new app will also stream in all on-demand programs that Comcast offers.

OK, what's the price? Let's see if we figured this right.

For $30 a month, you get the 35 channels, plus on-demand access, plus — for three months, HBO and HBO Go. After three months, HBO will cost you.

But it's a two-year commitment and I'm pretty sure (since I know Comcast) the second year will cost more than year one.

Here's the information sheet at Comcast: http://www.comcast.com/Corporate/Learn/DigitalCable/digitalcable.html

 


  

 

Cord-cutting continues to grow, slowly; least likely to cut: ESPN fans

New survey by Magid Associates on cord-cutters — those who are quitting cable or satellite paid-TV service — shows a slow but steady growth. See the related story at All Things D.

But the bad news is: If you're addicted to sports (or have a spouse with that affinity), the chance of cord-cutting decreases dramatically. See the attached chart that lays out the groups most and least likely to cut.

That means, if your wife loves to watch the Zags on ESPN or on satellite, you're going to be a cable subscriber indefinitely.

The Magid chart, included in this post, shows that those least likely to switch or cut are ESPN fans.

How many folks were affected by the KAYU-DISH snafu? About 103,000

We wondered how many subcribers might have been affected by the blackout created by the KAYU, DISH Network snafu that was settled over the weekend.

Roughly 103,000 is the number we came up with, thanks to the folks at SNL Kagan, a communications and broadcast media information aggregator. The number is certainly a bit lower than that, as some DISH subscribers likely had other options (such as a cable connection or a digital antenna to get signals).

Based on third quarter 2012 numbers, DISH had 103,429 subscribers in the Spokane TV market.

That's up from 3Q 2010, again using numbers provided by SNL Kagan. Here's the three-way subscriber numbers:

                     2010                                        2012 (both measured in 3Q)

Comcast      100,000                                               106,311

DirecTV         69,000                                                 76,478

DISH            102,000                                              103,429
  

Comcast's numbers are entirely in the Spokane metro area. DirecTV and DISH subscribers extend from North Idaho all the way over to central Washington.

Also worth noting is that both DirecTV and DISH ran into problems over retrans fees with Northwest Broadcasting, which runs KAYU.  The important thing is that there are no retrans fees paid by cable for its ability to carry local station signals.

The reason is that the cable giants, like Comcast, give local stations access to some channels at little or no coast, in lieu of retrans fees. Hence, you never see the locals like NW Broadcasting locked in battles over money with Comcast.

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Viewers who endured KAYU-DISH blackout came away angry at both sides

You probably heard the disputing parties in the KAYU-DISH blackout finally reached an agreement over the weekend:  KAYU-28, Spokane’s Fox affiliate, was off the Dish network since late November over a dispute involving retransmission fees.

Terms of the deal to end the blackout were not disclosed.

But what is clear is both companies ended up with a black eye in the minds of many customers. We did a quick email blast to angry customers who were upset enough to contact KAYU GM Brian Brady last week. Here's a short sample of how those customers told us they feel about what happened to them.

Viewer Carol Nelson's take: "Once the snow's gone, we'll be looking into antenna options so we aren't caught in the middle again. We shouldn't have to leave home in order to watch network programs!"

And, Donald Rowland doesn't pull any punches: "Still, a very bad business practice, to torture the paying customers! SHAME on both companies for doing this! Now that the Seahawks are done, I have no further need of KAYU-28 along with many of the area advertisers. May they reap what they sowed!"

And here's a blast from Stephen Fisher, M.D.: "I believe that reasonable and responsible men and women are always able to reach a fair and equitable solution of any situation.  Our business behavior is mirroring our political behavior and our behavior in many of our other institutions. Those who suffer are those (the two businesses) serve.  Apparently, those in positions to make decisions have misplaced their moral compasses."

Bicycle Alliance’s Barb Chamberlain chats with Comcast Newsmakers

I was so excited to see Spokane getting some statewide representation when the Bicycle Alliance of Washington hired Barb Chamberlain as their Executive Director last summer. Founded in 1987, the statewide bicycle advocacy organization works to grow bicycling and to create complete and healthy streets through education, developing more inclusive communities for cycling, building a coalition of organizations, and seeking to make bicycling accessible to everyone. A perfect fit for Chamberlain, many of us were sad to see her go but knew this was an amazing opportunity. 

Comcast Newsmakers checks in with her about her work. It's brief but I'm excited about the shout out to the US Bicycle Route System

Sabrina: Bicycle Alliance–tell us about the group.

Barb: We were founded 25 years ago growing out of local bike advocates who said we need a statewide bike advocacy organization–a nonprofit that’s focused on helping grow bicycling, pass public policy that makes this state a better place to ride, an organization that would do education and outreach–really around the state–and we’ve been doing that for 25 years very successfully.

Sabrina: Twenty-five years, quarter of a century–congratulations! So it sounds like the organization has grown and even evolved some since its beginning.

Barb: Definitely. One of the things we point to as an accomplishment of the last 25 years is we have been the organization leading legislation that improves the state for bicycling. We’ve led the majority of legislation passed in the last 25 years. So that’s everything from adding those questions you have to answer on your driver’s license exam about bike law to making sure that when a kid goes through drivers’ ed bike safety is part of that curriculum so as drivers and riders interact we all know the laws.

Watch the interview after the jump.

Comcast will offer bundled services with Verizon Wireless in Seattle, Portland

Customers in Portland and Seatle will be the first to try out a joint marketing effort between Verizon and Comcast.  

The companies announced Monday that Comcast will sell wireless bundles for cable customers looking to buy a new smartphone or add a new phone and data plan. The companies said they expect to roll out the deal to other cities later.

The initial Comcast promotion will provide a prepaid Visa card, up to $300 in value, for customers who sign up for the Verizon-Comcast bundled service. A press release said there are some restrictions: to qualify a customer must be signing up for a new Xfinity Double Play or Triple Play package.

And the customer must be a new Verizon Wireless customer purchasing a qualifying smartphone or tablet data plan; or an existing Verizon Wireless customer adding a new line of service or upgrading their service with a new smartphone or tablet, both with a new two-year customer agreement.

Customers will receive the prepaid Visa cards by mail.

Details are here:  www.comcast.com/wireless.  

Washington signs off on the Comcast-NBC merger

We saw a press release from the Washington Attorney General's office today. It said Rob McKenna and several other state AGs have formally agreed to the U.S. Department of Justice settlement that allows Comcast to merge with NBC Universal.

What we're not sure about is whether any of the states raised any issues that weren't already addressed by consumer groups, media companies and public interest entities.

The release sent by the McKenna office doesn't list any one or two major points that the AGs collectively made a big deal out of.

Today was also the day the real decision took place, in Washington, D.C., when the FCC formally gave its approval to the media merger, which will create a mammoth conglomerate with a trove of media content, along with the nation's largest cable system (not to mention being one of the nation's biggest Internet service providers, providing the system that is the primary way many will get entertainment and news).

A full summary of the agreement is at FCC.gov.

One of the several key points in the approval required that localism become a major focus for the merged media company. That agreement says:  "To further broadcast localism, Comcast-NBCU will maintain at least the current level of news and information programming on NBC’s and Telemundo’s owned-and-operated (“O&O”) broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other local content.

NBC and Telemundo O&O stations also will provide thousands of additional hours of local news and information programming to their viewers, and some of its NBC stations will enter into cooperative arrangements with locally focused nonprofit news organizations.  Additional free, on-demand local programming will be made available as well."

We believe that means we'll see a gain in local news and information programming from stations like KHQ and from the local government-public access channels provided here by Comcast.