The Duncan Banner

October 4, 2013

Cable ONE viewers in the dark — again

CNN among stations off air as contract with Turner expires

Toni Hopper
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Customers of Cable ONE may have tried to access CNN or Headline News to stay abreast of the government shutdown this week, only to discover those popular stations, along with several others, were not available.  

Automatically, Cable ONE was labled as the bad guy — much like the government — as having shut down the stations. But, according to Cable ONE, a negotiation process with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (Turner Network), which controls those stations, has backfired. Turner Network didn’t like the negotiations that Cable ONE was proposing on the less popular channels, therefore, it “deauthorized” the more popular stations, so Cable One contends. Cable ONE is based in Phoenix, Ariz.

“For the past several months, Cable ONE has been in negotiations with Turner Network as they demand an increase of over 50 percent,” stated Cable ONE. “Since we were unable to reach a fair deal with Turner, we’ve been forced to drop CNN (SD&HD), CNN Espanol, Headline News, TCM (SD& HD), TruTV and Boomerang from our channel line-up.”

Sounds much like the GOPS-Democrats. A shutdown that leaves many in the dark. Only it’s Cable ONE customers who are paying the price and has its customers mad.

“I’m disgusted,” said Jean Schalit, who is retired from the food service industry, but stays extremely active in her Duncan community.

She didn’t see the Cable ONE ‘cut-off’ coming of her favorite channel — Turner Classics.

“I am so disgusted with all of the television channels,” Schalit said Thursday. “I tried to watch FOX this morning. I used to watch Headline News and even though they acted so silly, they’d give the news and move on.”

As the bitter battle continues, Oklahoma and other Cable ONE customers are left without not only the stations in question, but also others —TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network.

Most recently, Cable ONE’s CEO and president Tom Might, on Wednesday, described the issue as an act of retaliation and even labled it “bullying” in an open letter published on the Fierce Cable website which is a daily news website for cable service provider executives. Might claims that his company had already signed new contracts for and agreed to pay “an enormous nearly 50 percent rate increase” for those 3 networks.

Pre-recorded messaging, emails, and website content from Cable ONE all bear the same message.

Recently Schalit downsized and moved from a home into an apartment. Basic Cable ONE services are offered as part of her rent.

“I was thinking it was Cable ONE, but a few have said Turner. If they are indeed asking for a 50 percent increase, they are passing that on to me, well not me since it is part of my rent, but Cable ONE customers are paying for it.”

Yet, in a Cable ONE phone message, they ask people to visit in their support. A visit to that website shows the Cable ONE logo, and questions to answers many customers seem to be asking the company.

While many people are worried about their bill, Cable ONE maintains it will credit customers for these channels and that credit will be reflected on the next monthly bill. Exactly how much that credit is has yet to be revealed. They specifically indicate that customers do not need to call them regarding the billing issue. Since the cable service is part of Schalit’s rent, that doesn’t affect her, she said.

Cable ONE states it has a signed contract to carry TBS, TNT and the Cartoon Network, but they believe they are being punished, which is ultimately punishing its customers, and claim Turner deauthorized the signals for the channels.

“Our intent was to continue to offer these channels.”

On the Stop Programming Hikes (Cable One) website, it is noted their contract with Turner has expired.

“They refused our counter offer.”

When contacted by The Banner, Turner Broadcasting had little to say, only noting that the statement they’ve posted online is what they are offering.

“The one addition is that Cable ONE does not have the right to distribute TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network through an NCTC agreement,” said Rachelle Savoia, based in Turner’s Atlanta division.

What that means, is that Cable ONE cannot just pick and choose individual networks for their customers. Essentially, when Cable ONE decided to drop the less popular stations/networks, Turner countered by ordering Cable ONE to remove the other networks from its lineup.

Cable ONE also claims that Turner Network ratings have declined more than 10 percent in the past three years, and that the company insisted all eight networks be carried — at the additional more than 50 percent cost increase for the next three years. At that point, Cable ONE chose to drop the less popular networks, which included CNN and CNN Headline News. CNN’s website claims it as the world’s leading news source.

“I think they were redundant. CNN and Headline News giving the same news. I can see where they’d (Cable ONE) get rid of one of them,” Schalit said.

Schalit isn’t a fan of most of the broadcast news aired.

“I knew I wouldn’t watch MSNBC. They act like high schoolers, not to disparage high schoolers, but the way they (TV news personalities) dress, and act so juvenile. It’s just unbelievable,” Schalit said. In her mid-70s, Schalit doesn’t apologize for her no-nonsense attitude.

“They used to have news readers. Now, they put these ridiculous shows on under the title of news and it’s not news. They all wear black hats as far as I’m concerned. I know the mass media tend to be liberals. I don’t know why FOX sinks to that level. It’s just disrespectful,” Schalit said.

Battle of the industry

This isn’t the first time in recent years that Cable ONE has had to battle broadcasting networks. In December 2011, retransmission consent agreements between CableOne and three Oklahoma broadcasters stalled and customers were told that by Jan. 1, 2012, they would be watching Texas stations instead of Oklahoma local news stations.

That involved NBC KFOR Channel 4, CBS KWTV Channel 9 and FOX KOKH Channel 12. The complex issue was out of the hands of customers who voiced their displeasure. City managers for Duncan and Marlow got involved. A CableOne representative said the FCC determined what marketing network coverage a customer is in and that when Wichita Falls requested non-duplication of stations, Cable ONE was forced to comply, or charge more for the additional stations being broadcast. The other alternative, which some customers chose, was to up their services by getting an HD level, and holding on to the Oklahoma channels.

Cable ONE said Pay TV has declined considerably in recent years, and expects that trend to continue, as more viewers choose to watch everything from news to movies via the Internet.

Schalit is one of those customers who sees herself as adapting to the changes. While she misses the classic station, she’s not fretting over it and has found other options.

“I put Netflix on and I have a big honking screen on my mac and watch anything I want,” she said.

According to the information on Fierce Cable, the network battle putting Cable ONE and other cable programmers smack in the center, is similar to other declining industries — including music and newspapers.

Turner’s Savoia was asked if they could be specific about what the actual increase in costs were or what the ‘established marketplace cost’ is, but they chose not to answer that question.

And if the Turner services aren’t restored, Schalit isn’t going to let it ruin her day.

“I get a little news off of PBS.”