A La Carte Cable TV Pricing Could Result from Lawsuit Win

Cablevision, a cable television provider, is tired of having to carry a bunch of channels that its subscribers don’t watch and don’t want to pay for. As a result, the company has filed a lawsuit against Viacom for “illegally forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched ancillary networks.”

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Right now, if cable TV providers want to offer subscribers MTV, Comedy Central, and Spike, it must bill their customers for MTV 2, VH1 Classic, Nick Jr., and a slew of other, less appealing channels. This practice — called bundling — enables Viacom to demand more money from companies like Cablevision. This isn’t the first time TV providers have pushed back at Viacom, either, as it participated in a very public pissing match with satellite service DirecTV last year.

Should Cablevision win, it could drastically change the pricing model to an “à la carte” system and abolish the current practice of bundled packages of channels (from multiple cable networks) that many of us have no choice but subscribe to each month. For instance, if you only watch HBO, Comedy Central, Science Channel, Discovery, and the History channel, you’d pay a monthly fee for each of them.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that bundled channel pricing will go away entirely, but we’d certainly get smaller bundles. Customers may find that Viacom will charge more for each channel, which could make a Viacom-specific bundled channel package more attractive. But at least that would be more of a choice than what consumers are currently getting.

Bundling generally works in the favor of content providers and not in favor of the cable companies and their subscribers. For example, to get ESPN on Charter Communications, you are also paying for ESPN2, ESPNews, and on occasion more networks than that, depending upon the package.

Putting an end to bundling could help save pay TV in the long run.

Glenn Beck Fighting to Get the Blaze on Satellite and Cable TV Systems

Former Fox News pundit and conservative media star Glenn Beck has begun his effort to get his new “libertarian” news channel, the Blaze, on satellite TV and cable TV systems such as DIRECTV, AT&T U-Verse, and Charter Communications. The channel is already carried by DISH Network. Beck is urging his millions of fans on the radio and on the internet to bombard their service providers in order to get the station included with their service.

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Beck is attempting to get TheBlaze’s fans to put pressure on their local carriers.

Meanwhile, Beck wrote a letter on the subject that appears on TheBlaze.com. “You probably pay good money every month to your TV provider for access to channels like MSNBC and Al Jazeera America — channels that you might not watch, or even agree with,” Beck says.

“Adding TheBlaze will ensure that you and your family have a source of news and analysis that you can trust and that doesn’t betray your values.”

He has a leg up over other TV channels looking to be carried by cable and satellite networks in that he has a dedicated audience of millions on the radio and Internet, The New York Times reports. He also has the assistance of Dish.

That Beck calls his station “libertarian” is misleading, as it will likely be an even more conservative version of Fox News catering to that sort of audience. But it has the chance to be quite popular, and it seems likely that providers will pick it up sooner rather than later in order to avoid a large number of his supporters defecting to DISH.

His attack on Al-Jazeera America is also misleading, as Al-Jazeera is a respected news source around the world. But since it comes from a Muslim part of the world, people will always have their prejudices. Those people are perfect for a new channel from Glenn Beck.

Sundance Channel to Carry Cable TV Rights for ‘Breaking Bad’ Off-Network

AMC’s Breaking Bad has a very loyal cult audience, and that audience has grown each season it has aired due to popularity on DVD and on streaming sites like Netflix. They are hoping to grow that audience even more with its final season by giving off-network rights to sister network the Sundance Channel, which will air back-to-back episodes from the first four seasons of the show on Monday nights beginning March 4.

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The series will follow premiere episodes of Sundance Channel original series The Staircase: Last Chance which airs on March 4th and 11th; Top of the Lake which runs from March 18th to April 15th and Rectify which airs April 22nd through May 27th.

“Breaking Bad has become a benchmark for storytelling at its finest and we are proud to air this series as we embark on our own scripted programming with the upcoming debut of Rectify, which is produced by the same incredible team behind Breaking Bad,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel’s General Manager and Executive Vice President in a statement.  “We are looking forward to giving viewers another opportunity to catch up with what has been called TV’s best drama.”

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad will air beginning sometime this summer, with longtime fans clamoring for new episodes after a cliffhanger ending that has kept them waiting for nearly a year by the time the next episodes air. Those who have not seen the show up to this point will be able to get caught up on Sundance Channel, which is good news, and with the DVDs for Season Five, which will be released shortly before the new season airs.

So get started this Monday. The Sundance Channel airs on 558 on DIRECTV.

Montana’s Congressional Delegation Fights to Expand Access to High Speed Internet

Montana’s two senators and one representative in the House of Representatives have teamed up to fight to increase access to high speed internet in the state, where many rural areas are still underserved and must depend on satellite internet to get anything resembling high speed access.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping to spread broadband internet access nationwide through its Connect America Fund. Broadband internet can transmit more information at faster speeds than traditional internet connections.

Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus, along with Representative Steve Daines, want the FCC to maximize broadband’s effectiveness in Montana by expanding it more quickly across the Big Sky State. They say the technology will strengthen the state’s economy.

“Continued investments in broadband infrastructure will boost economic development and promote innovation across rural parts of the country,” Tester, Baucus and Daines wrote. “Montana is one of the largest states in the country and this technology connects farmers and ranchers with markets all over the world and allows startups to become integral national companies.”

Tester, Baucus and Daines also say that broadband improves the ability of people living in rural areas to access telemedicine services and online education classes, increasing their access to health care and furthering their educations.

The FCC’s Connect America Fund, which was unveiled in 2011, aims to provide nearly 20 million rural American households with access to broadband connections by 2020.

Montana’s delegation does not often agree, as there are differences across party lines, but on this measure they are in full agreement that the state needs more access, as each day more and more business is done on the World Wide Web.

More on this as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

CenturyLink Moves into the Cable TV Business

According to AZCentral.com, a website bringing news to the state of Arizona, local phone provider CenturyLink is getting into the cable TV business in order to combat business lost as people move away from local, wired telephone service to cell phones.

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Officials at the company formerly known as Qwest Communications have realized that offerings other than traditional phone service represent their best hope for long-term success, said Ken McMahon, CenturyLink’s vice president and general manager for the Phoenix market.

“Owning the broadband connection to the home or the business is the future of our company,” McMahon said. “That’s where we’re developing all of our products and services.”

The new high-definition TV service, called Prism, will put CenturyLink in direct competition with cable-TV giant Cox Communications and satellite providers such as Dish Network and DirecTV.

The company already has been competing with Cox for several years as a provider of both telephone and broadband Internet service.

Prism is available to most residents of Chandler and Gilbert, McMahon said, and the service will continue to expand into other parts of the Phoenix area throughout this year and the next.

Introducing the TV service requires significant network upgrades, as well as opening retail centers, he said. The company opened its first storefront on Feb. 5 in Chandler, at 2780 W. Chandler Boulevard, Suite 5.

The Phoenix area is the ninth CenturyLink market to receive Prism service, McMahon said. Other markets in which the service is available include Las Vegas, Tallahassee, Fla., and Madison, Wis.

CenturyLink is offering six-month introductory prices of $40 a month for basic Prism service, $56 a month for expanded service and $99 a month for premium service that includes pay channels such as HBO.

McMahon said long-term pricing varies because of service-bundling discounts.

The Phoenix-area lineup is similar to that of Cox, he said, with about 280 available channels.

The service requires new technology provided by CenturyLink that includes a wireless router known as a residential gateway and a set-top box for each household TV. Both wired and wireless boxes are available, McMahon said.

McMahon said customers can learn more about the service by visiting seeprismtv.com or calling 480-722-0317.

More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

West Virginia Businesses and Residents See Improvement with High Speed Internet Access

Much of the state of West Virginia lags behind less rural portions of the nation when it comes to high speed internet access. But, according to the Exponent Telegram, some local areas are seeing improvements with the availability of faster mobile internet access expanding.

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Business consumers are seeing the greatest strides.

Frontier Communications recently announced enhanced speeds in several communities, including Clarksburg, Bridgeport, Salem, Bristol, West Milford, West Union, Grafton, Fairmont, Mannington, Philippi, Moatsville, Volga and Century.

Business users may have access to service of up to 40 Mbps, according to general manager Chip VanAlsburg.

The West Virginian Economic Development Authority also recently approved a $7 million loan to help Citynet LLC construct a 130-mile fiber-optic network that will interconnect Bridgeport, Clarksburg, Morgantown, Fairmont and Wheeling with high speed Internet service.

It is important for rural and outlying areas to gain the same access to high speed internet experienced in urban areas, as modern commerce and education both depend upon high speed internet to function. Something as simple as applying to a job online without high speed internet can take much longer, or become almost impossible, with the speeds required to send large amounts of information. Not to mention attempting to sell products online using dial-up; that is virtually impossible in this day and age. With dial-up even checking email can take much longer than it needs to, which slows down commerce in these fast-moving online times.

Many educational outlets too are unavailable to those without high speed internet. Many college courses require online coursework, which cannot be completed without a high speed internet connection.

It’s good to see that many West Virginia communities are becoming more connected. It’s only a matter of time before the whole state is up to speed.

DIRECTV Satellite TV Now Available from iElectronics.com

DIRECTV is the number one satellite television provider in the United States, serving many more customers than DISH Network and bringing more channels and more sports as the exclusive provider of the most popular sports package in the country, NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

St. Louis-based iElectronics.com is a consumer electronics retailer specializing in home entertainment. Now these two forces are combined, with iElectronics.com bringing people in the St. Louis Metro Area and beyond DIRECTV satellite TV.

Here are the main packages available from DIRECTV and iElectronics.com:

  • Entertainment: The DIRECTV Entertainment package features more than 140 channels, including all of your local channels, with many in high-definition. When you sign up you also get three free months of premium channels including HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax.
  • Choice: Get everything you get with the Entertainment package and more, with more than 150 channels, even more in HD.
  • Choice XTRA: Choice XTRA is one of the most popular packages, with more than 210 channels, and all the premium channels for free for three months.
  • Choice Ultimate: Choice Ultimate brings you more than 225 channels.
  • Premier: Premier brings you nearly 300 channels, with even more in HD.

With DIRECTV you’ll also get access to DIRECTV Cinema, with Pay-Per-View movies before they’re out on DVD and with even better picture and sound than Blu-ray.

As mentioned before, DIRECTV is the only way to get access to every NFL game, every Sunday, with NFL SUNDAY TICKET. NFL SUNDAY TICKET is the most popular sports package in the country, giving you every out-of-market game, as well as, with NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX, the RED ZONE CHANNEL, which gives you every scoring play from every game as they happen, a fast-paced way to watch all the games as they go on.

To get started with DIRECTV, contact iElectronics.com today.