Comcast Channel Shifts — Looking for info.

I’m getting email about Comcast migrating MSNBC and CNN out of its expanded tier to a higher priced tier while keeping Fox News on expanded tier in a number of markets. If this is actually going on, I’m mightily curious.

Such shifts do not happen casually. They are generally the product of fairly intense negotiations among cable operators and programmers. They also require advance notice to viewers. This makes me extremely reluctant to impute a political motive here. If NBC and Time Warner (the owners of MSNBC and CNN respectively) were being screwed against their will over a political agenda, I would have expected to hear it in DC. What mainstream coverage there is of this suggests it is part of Comcast’s general digital upgrade. So we should expect to see all remaining channels migrated off to the higher priced tier eventually. While that will constitute a significant rate increase, it will put everyone back on equal footing. Besides, as the DC Circuit instructed us all last month, cable operators have no market power and cannot influence the programming market, whatever your personal experience to the contrary may be.

So if anyone has more info on this and would like to either comment below or talk to me, I’d love to hear about it.

I suppose I should add that unless Comcast failed to give proper notice to subscribers before changing their channel line up, their is nothing the FCC can do about it, so don’t bother complaining.

Stay tuned . . .

Fragmentation Games: Playstation Gets “Boxeed,” TV Anywhere Gets More Content.

In the latest twist in the broadband fragmentation games driven the overlap of MVPDs and broadband access providers, users of PlayStation 3 can no longer access Hulu. As some may recall, Hulu tried a similar trick with, resulting in a good old fashioned tech arms race wherein Boxee camouflaged itself as browser and Hulu responded by encrypting html.

Now Hulu has shut off the spigot to Playstation 3. Why? As I noted when Hulu pulled this on Boxee in the spring, the people who make money off the existing video subscription model (both the cable operators like Comcast and the content holders like NBC Universal) really dislike the thought of streaming media actually competing with them. As long as video stayed on the laptop and occasionally stopped to buffer, it didn’t really threaten the established business models. But make it possible to watch streaming media on your regular TV, with a quality practically equal to what you get on cable, and it becomes a very disruptive technology.

Playstation 3 and other game consoles are obvious candidates to disrupt the existing business model. They already plug into your television set, you are very familiar with the controls, and the manufacturers are always expanding the capabilities of the units to make them more “media centers” and less “game centers.” Like Boxee, they represent a real threat by making it possible for me to stream online content effortlessly on my TV and watch in exactly the same way I watch anything else.

Meanwhile, Time Warner and Comcast have found lots of other content networks eager to join the “Entitlement Program.” This initiative appears to be gathering critical mass very rapidly, which is not too surprising. While some of the bigger folks like Disney may hold out to see how they can maximize their return, the midsized players anxious about possible changes to the business model are likely to want to get in while the getting is good.

To conclude, what we have here is not anything obvious or dramatic. It is a few more ripples in the pond, indicating where the big fish swim. Any one of the “fragmentation games” incidents I’ve discussed, for example the business which has been slowly ratcheting up to include more ISPs, is not necessarily significant on its own. Taken together, however, I see a pattern emerging that tells me where the fun and games will happen over the next few years. Heck, at this point, I’m not even sure what policy prescription I would offer. I just know that I’m seeing a bunch of ripples that might be nothing. Or it might be bunch of salmon and a great place to cast a line. Or it might be a school of piranha and I need to be very careful before wading in.

Stay tuned . . . .

Jack Welch, Karl Rove, media cartels, and the subversion of democracy

By way of Smirking Chimp I come across this fascinating (and utterly depressing) account of how Karl Rove “reached out” to (Saint) Jack Welch, A.K.A “the buzz saw”, Chairman of General Electric, the parent company of NBC, and how together they put in place the right wing noise machine that masquerades as our nation’s electronic news media.

My letter to the Today Show about Coulter

Well, I don’t get telvision in my home, and I haven’t seen the Today Show in 25 years, so I don’t suppose I could threaten to stop watching. Anyway, here’s the letter I sent to the Today Show on the occasion of the latest outrage by Republican shill Ann Coulter. I haven’t gotten a response yet.

NBC and the Today Show’s producers know well by now that Ann Coulter is an inflamatory hate-monger. That is her schtick; that is what she does: she spews hate and mocks those who are in pain, especially those who are in pain as a result of service to the United States of America.

So now she has slandered the so-called “Jersey Girls”, the group of September 11 widows, who, thrust into a role that none of them sought, and at a great cost that Ms. Coulter is unable to comprehend, being herself neither wife nor mother, have dedicated themselves to the noble task of trying to save us the kind of pain that they have had to endure.

Will NBC apologize for inviting that wretched Coulter onto their show? Will they apologize for condoning and enabling slander?

Most importantly, will the Jersey Girls be given the chance to respond to this hateful, vile, obscene, America-hating, cruel lying harpie, Coulter?

NBC’s producers, and managment, and staff — including you, whoever you are reading this note– bear some measure of responsibility for Coulter’s remarks. Especially the hosts and the producers. Were this the first time that Coulter had done this kind of hateful stunt, you might be excused on the grounds that you didn’t know what a horribly deranged person she is. But you have no excuse now, in June, 2006. Everybody knows that shit-stirring is Coulter’s stock-in-trade. She is a shit-stirrer; that is what she does. If you invite a clown to perform on the the Today Show, you expect a clown’s performance. And if you invite Coulter, you expect coprophilia. Well, congratulations, you’ve made the Today Show into a bucket of shit. You can either accept this situation — who knows, you may love the aroma, may even love painting your face with faeces– or you can attempt to clean and disinfect and air out your studios and your reputation.

For NBC to begin to redeem itself, the Today Show must perforce allow the slandered persons a chance to respond. Under whatever studio conditions they stipulate.

That’s only step one. Other steps towards rehabilitation are evident to any persons possessed of common decency.

Frankly, I have a hard time imagining that the Today Show will ever again be, in my eyes, anything but a moneygrubber’s cesspool. I would be delighted to be proved wrong.


John Sundman
Vineyard Haven, MA

where does the Wetmachine crowd go for breaking news?

With Saddams capture last night, I’d like to know the implications for trial. If we turn him over to an international court for, say, gasing Kurdish forces, won’t he want to tell the court where he got his intelligence reports? Could that lead to a subpoena of previous US administrations? What happens at trial and in world opinion if he’s tried by us or by a US-controlled Iraqi “government”.

Where can one go to get the poop? Google isn’t current enough. CBS, ABC, and NBC (GE and Microsoft, my two least favorite corporations) are covering the story, but say nothing of relevence about trial. NPR has an audio report that hasn’t been transcribed yet, so I can’t search for the word “trial”. Slashdot and kuro5hin aren’t on to this yet. (I wonder if I should check Urban Legends.)

My regional newspaper has some coverage (go print media!), but the New York Times and the Washington Post want me to fill out forms before they tell me anything. (And besides, the stuff about trial at the NYT isn’t transcribed from audio yet. Odd, for a newspaper.)

The day after the last election, and on the moring of 9/11, I was at work and had the resources of a hundred well-informed people. While getting paid a lot of money to come up with technology to change the world, we had each other and the best broadband money could buy to get info throughout the day. Now we’re all isolated in our homes. Where do you go for the real deal?