Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


May 22, 2012

Network executives and cable companies appear to have found a common enemy: satellite provider Dish Network.

Despite a history of feuding with networks over fees to carry their shows, the cable guys are still siding with programmers in their fight with Dish over new ad-skipping technology for DVRs. Glenn Britt, the head of Time Warner Cable, the country's second-biggest cable operator, said yesterday that Dish's new Auto Hop feature - which allows viewers to not only skip commercials but black them out altogether - represents a major threat to the paid-TV ecosystem. "The dual stream of advertising and subscription revenue has been great for content creators," Britt said yesterday during a panel discussion at the Cable Show in Boston. "We have more TV than we could have ever imagined. I don't think we want to destroy one of those revenue streams."

Dish, the second-largest satellite-TV provider with 14 million subscribers, introduced the Hopper several weeks ago - much to the dismay of broadcasters - and has been touting its advanced ad-skipping prowess in newspapers and TV spots. The timing was particularly galling to TV networks as they were gearing up for their annual "upfront" negotiations with advertisers over commercial time. "They need us to reach homes with our content," Discovery boss David Zaslav said yesterday at the same cable event. "And if there is not going to be advertising fees, then there needs to be a lot higher subscriber fees."

Siding with the networks is a departure for cable companies, which more often than not have been on the opposite side of the negotiation from broadcasters battling for so-called retransmission fees to carry their local TV stations. Separately, a source said that some programmers are weighing legal action against Dish, run by satellite guru Charlie Ergen. "He's going to have to pay four times the retransmission consent fees if he wants to take away the advertising," the source quipped. New York Post

Now an iPhone can become a remote and its keypad can be used to search for content by title as part of Comcast's X1 cloud-enabled television platform. The X1 platform stores movies and other content in a virtual file instead of in a cable box. The service will launch first on Comcast's Boston systems before it rolls out across the country.

Comcast also gave a demonstration of its new Project Dayview service, which can turn the television into a virtual planner, complete with traffic reports, meeting schedules, emails and, of course, what's on television. The device interfaces across TV, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Additionally, Comcast said it had struck a deal to carry Outside Television - a cable network based on the outdoor sports magazine Outside - on several of its systems across the country, including Atlanta; Chicago; Denver; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco. The network, created in 2010, will be placed on a specialty tier of sports and lifestyle channels on Comcast, company officials said.

In his opening remarks Monday to attendees at the convention, NATC chief Michael Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the government should have a light touch when it comes to regulating the Internet. "Letting politics allocate resources - rather than market economics and entrepreneurs - would kill investment and leave the Internet in the state we find today's post office, electric grid or crumbling transportation system," Powell said.

Calling media watchdogs and public policy advocates who push for greater regulation of the Internet "the doomsayer chorus in Washington," Powell warned that heavy-handed oversight of a developing industry would do far more harm than good. "Some naysayers are carping because they don't like the U.S. private enterprise model," Powell said, adding that they "prefer European-style regulation where the government effectively owns or controls the network, pumping taxpayer money into subsidizing service and managing competition."

That, Powell said, would be a "disastrous path" to go down. "Confiscating private networks would put our already broke government on the hook to keep tens of billions of dollars annually flowing into network innovation," he said. There is concern among media watchdogs that without strong government oversight, the cable and telephone companies that control the pipes that deliver broadband will not compete fairly with other services or create a level playing field for all content providers. Boston Globe

The PA state budget: GOP lawmakers put a date on it And that would be June 13. At least, that's what two high-level Republican legislators seem to think.

Earlier today, Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he believes the budget will be put to bed by then, breaking a multi-year tradition of pushing it right up to -- and well beyond -- the July 1 start of a new fiscal year. "It's always good to have goals in life," he quipped at the monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg. Not more than an hour later, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) made the same prediction to reporters.

Getting the budget done early? That would be a first for this last decade. The budget never - not even once - passed by the July 1 deadline when Ed Rendell was governor. And last year, despite the governor's office and both legislative chambers being controlled by Republicans, the budget was signed into law with only 13 minutes to spare. To those who haven't been following, here's where the budget stands now: Gov. Corbett proposed his $27.1 billion blueprint in February, containing steep cuts to higher education and some programs for the poor, elderly and disabled. The Senate made changes to it - restoring about $500 million in cuts - and has passed it to the House, which could begin considering it as early as this week.

The House Appropriations Committee got the next set of budget dominoes in line as it voted, along party lines, to send the $27.65 billion budget plan approved by the Senate to the House floor for a vote during the week of June 4.

The 21-14 vote came after more than 2.5 hours of rancorous partisan debate in which the panel's Democratic minority unsuccessfully tried to offer a series of amendments to the spending plan. Much of the debate focused on Democrats' outrage over a procedural motion by Republicans to effectively make the Senate budget the cap on what lawmakers can spend for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Democrats were repeatedly rebuffed in efforts to include additional spending in the budget plan. The panel's chairman, Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware, said lawmakers would be free to offer amendments on the floor as long as they increased spending in one place by reducing it somewhere else.

Democrats also repeatedly insisted that projections by the Legislature's own independent fiscal office showed that lawmakers had roughly $300 million in extra money to spend in the upcoming fiscal year. "We can do so much better for the people of Pennsylvania," Rep. Joe Markosek of Allegheny County, the committee's ranking Democrat said, as debate wrapped up around 6 p.m. "This is a budget that hurts people when it does not need to. There is money on the table." Adolph told Markosek and other Democrats that some line items, such as the accountability block grants that school districts use to pay for after-school tutoring and other programs would be addressed during floor debate "but they will only be addressed if they are revenue-neutral. I appreciate [Rep.} Markosek's passion, but we can only spend what we take in."

In a reminder that lawmakers are a long way from seeing a finished budget, Rep. Thomas Killion, R-Delaware, reminded his colleagues that the budget that came out of committee this evening wasn't the finished product. "We're talking like this is the final budget," he said. "This is not the final vote. It's moving the process forward. We'll have plenty of time to debate all these line items."