On July 11th 2012, Viacom pulled all of their content, a grand total of 26 channels including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, VH1, and Comedy Central, from DirecTV subscribers while Viacom and DirecTV come to an agreement over licensing fees. According to DirecTV, Viacom wants to increase their fee 30% which will cost DirecTV an additional one billion dollars. This means that DirecTV will expect their customers to pay more to make up for the money that they are paying Viacom. This is not the first time an issue like this has happened. Back in March 2010, Cablevision lost ABC, causing millions of people in New York City to lose the most popular station in the NYC area. Cablevision also had issues with Scripps Networks that same year, causing Cablevision subscribers to lose HGTV and the Food Network. This month as well, Dish Network subscribers lost AMC content which include ACM, Sundance Channel, IFC and We TV.
Viacom took things a bit further by removing streaming content from their channel’s websites. In the attempt to watch Viacom shows online, you would receive a message that stated that full episodes were currently unavailable. These shows were still available on Hulu or Amazon On Demand but since most people go to the channel’s website to watch the shows, most people were left in the dark. To make things worse, since there is no way to tell who had DirecTV and who didn’t, Viacom pulled the shows for everyone, no matter what cable provider they were paying for.
Here’s the problem with Viacom and DirecTV airing all their dirty laundry like this: It only hurts the customers. Customers do not care why their channels are missing and have no care for how these deals are made behind the scenes, they only want to watch the shows they care about on those channels. If anything, pulling channels from cable provider listings has the opposite effect on what cable and content providers want. It’s safe to say that cable is suffering. There is an increased amount of “cord cutters”, people who have ditched their cable subscription and instead relies on over the air broadcasts and streaming content on Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon or watching individual shows on the channel’s websites. This is the legal way of getting television content without paying for a cable subscription. However, there is another way, an illegal way, and that is, of course, piracy.
Viacom pulling their channels from cable listings from DirecTV and online streaming for everyone most likely had one result: Piracy. The only people who get punished when channels disappear from listings or when legal streams get taken down are the paying customers. Pirates don’t need to watch The Daily Show on comedycentral.com, they downloaded the show via a torrent somewhere and now have that episode on their computers to watch whenever they like.
It’s safe to say that cable companies and content providers like Viacom are just not getting it. In a YouTube video discussing the Viacom issues, DirecTV’s CEO, Mike White, reports that he asked Viacom to offer a la carte channels for customers and Viacom refused. This is rather interesting since à la carte channels is what customers have been asking for. The problem is, content providers are stuck in the original way of doing business, where cable was the only game in town. If you wanted to watch a show on MTV, you had no option but to order a bundle of channels, which included MTV, and you had to watch it on TV via your cable box. Times have changed. Most people don’t have loyalty to a specific channel, they have loyalty to shows. You can easily buy a season of the TV show you want to watch on iTunes for $30. If you only watch a handful of shows, this can be much cheaper than spending $80 or so a month on your cable subscription which is filled with channels you have zero interest in.
With the way things are today and with the rumors of an Apple Television which is reported to provide customers with à la carte shows, content providers need to rethink how they do business. How far are you going to push this mistreatment of customers when customers have so many options, both illegal and legal, to get the content that they want?
In other words, I don’t want my MTV, I want my Teen Wolf and I don’t need you to get it.