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TWC increase was predictable but higher than expected

By Alan Pergament

I hate to be one of those people, but I told you eight months ago that you should root for Time Warner Cable in its national retransmission dispute with LIN Media, the owner of Channel 4 and Channel 23.

On May 23, 2013, I wrote: "TWC is about as popular as Tom Brady here, but this is one case in which cable subscribers should root for it to hold the line and keep future cable rate increases down to a minimum."

"It is TWC's position that refusing to pay LIN's demands will benefit subscribers because the increased cost is likely to be passed down to the consumer."

A week later when the deal was announced, I began another blog this way:

"How much is it going to cost us? That''s the unanswered question that Time Warner Cable subscribers should be asking themselves after Friday's announcement that the cable company and the owner of Channel 4 and Channel 23  agreed on a deal to keep the local CBS and CW affiliates on the region's largest cable system.”

I added: "Since the deal was announced only minutes after the previous deal was set to expire, one can assume that TWC didn't have to pay the 50 percent increase it claimed LIN was seeking and that it got what it was looking for -- a fair deal that likely wouldn't lead to a large cable bill rate increase. But that doesn't mean there won't be some increase.

"Once the next cable rate increase is announced -- and you know one is more likely to come eventually than a big Buffalo Sabres trade this offseason -- TWC is expected to cite increased costs as it usually does. But it never blames it on one deal like this one with LIN Media and never explains the cost of any of the deals it makes with station owner, broadcast groups or cable networks."

The answer to how much it was going to cost came down today.

And the increase beginning next month was more than even I expected eight months ago.

According to Buffalo News business reporter David Robinson TWC is adding a separate monthly fee of $2.25 a month to pay for retransmission of broadcast channels like Channel 2, Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 23 and Channel 29 that most of us can get easily with antennas.

Rates for cable television and internet services are going up an average of 6.4 percent, including the $2.25 monthly fee. The increase also partially covers cable programming costs for original series and movies that most of us could live without.

Is it fair to have to pay for broadcast channels that we can get for free or for cable programs we don’t want to watch? Of course not.

But the broadcast networks and station groups that own affiliates have successfully argued that they are entitled to cable money because most people get their programs through cable and not from antennas.

The TWC deal with LIN Media stations followed a similar national retransmission deal made months earlier with Sinclair Broadcasting that kept WUTV and WNYO-TV on the air in Buffalo.

In a perfect world, only people who watch the sporting events on all the ESPN channels should pay for them. Only the people who watch all the movies on Lifetime should pay for them. Only people who watch the series on AMC, USA Network and TNT should pay for them. And all the people who watch the reality series on MTV, VH-1, E! and Bravo should pay for them.

But cable has successfully argued that allowing subscribers to pick their channels a la carte would result in most channels disappearing.

So this is what you get under the current cable system.

At some point, the annual cable increases will cause more and more people to drop cable in favor of less expensive streaming services.

The point hasn’t been reached for most, but with this substantial increase I can almost hear the family debates starting tonight in living rooms across Western New York about whether it is time to switch.




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