Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


September 13, 2012

Time Warner Cable is a reluctant entrant to the sports programming game.

The cable giant is launching English- and Spanish-language sports channels in Los Angeles that will be home to the Lakers and Galaxy. Time Warner Cable is expected to also bid aggressively for the television rights to the Dodgers, whose deal with Fox's Prime Ticket expires after next season. But for Time Warner Cable, its moves are defensive. Tired of being squeezed by sports cable channels for higher subscription fees, it figured if you can't beat them, join them. "We prefer not to be in this business and if we had been charged more reasonable rates we probably wouldn't be in this position," said Time Warner Cable Chief Financial Officer Irene Esteves at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2012 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills on Wednesday.

Time Warner Cable is seeking $3.95 per subscriber, per month for its SportsNet and Deportes channels, which are scheduled to launch Oct. 1. While Time Warner Cable will obviously carry the service on its systems in the region, it still has not struck deals with DirecTV, Dish Network and other pay-TV distributors. While Time Warner Cable tries to get its sports channels carried here, in San Diego it is refusing to carry a Fox-owned sports channel that has the Padres baseball team. At issue is the price tag Fox is seeking, which is said to be more than $5.00 per subscriber, per month. Interestingly, one reason the price tag is so high is that Time Warner Cable tried to acquire Padres rights, which led to a bidding war that drove up the cost.

Esteves expressed concern about programming costs in general, charging that the increases the operator is paying are "obscene" and "out of control." Costs for programming, she said, have risen by 32% over the last four years and "I don't think our consumers are seeing a value that is up 32%." The Time Warner Cable executive pinned much of the blame on big media companies such as Disney and Viacom that bundle all their channels together instead of selling on an individual basis. That approach means distributors often take lower-rated channels in return for getting more popular ones. "We don't get to pick what we pay for," she said.

While programming costs may be keeping Esteves up, she's not losing sleep over Google's new fiber broadband pay-TV service that the search engine giant is launching in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., where Time Warner Cable is the dominant multichannel video program distributor. Esteves said she does not anticipate huge demand for Google's expensive high-speed fiber service and that it probably won't expand beyond the experimental level. She said Google would have to spend between $100 billion to $200 billion for national fiber and "we can't imagine a model that makes sense for Google shareholders." "We take every competitior very seriously, but they're the eighth competitor in the market," she said. Earlier Wednesday, Google said it had signed a programming deal for its Google Fiber service with Walt Disney Co., parent of ESPN and Disney Channel. Los Angeles Times

After weeks of speculation, anticipation and a dose of hype, Apple is widely expected to announce a new smartphone at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. Apple isn't saying anything about the topic of the event, but the email invitation it sent to reporters contains a shadow in the shape of a "5" -- a nod to the iPhone 5. It is being held in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, where Apple has held many product launches.

The new model is expected to work with fourth-generation, or 4G, cellular networks. That capability is something Samsung's Galaxy S III and many other iPhone rivals already have. A bigger iPhone screen is also possible. The new model will likely go on sale in a week or two. Apple also plans to update its phone software this fall and will ditch Google's mapping service for its own, as a rivalry between the two companies intensifies.

In a related development, Google said Tuesday that it is releasing a new YouTube app for the iPhone and the iPad. The changes come amid the expiration of a five-year licensing agreement that had established YouTube as one of the built-in applications in Apple's mobile devices. Still unknown is whether Apple will announce a smaller version of its iPad on Wednesday. Apple dominates the market for tablet computers, shipping seven out of every 10 tablets worldwide in the second quarter, according to research firm IHS iSuppli. Rivals have been trying to compete by producing smaller, cheaper models --such as Amazon's Kindle Fire. A mini iPad would challenge those relative newcomers. Associated Press

Republican Mitt Romney and allied organizations are off the airwaves in Pennsylvania's television markets for now, raising questions about how much the challenger is willing to contend for its 20 electoral votes. And yet Romney and his allies with the Republican National Committee are reaching out to voters in Pennsylvania (and other swing states) with a ground game that is far more intensive than the party was able to muster in support of John McCain four years ago.

So far, Romney volunteers have made nearly two million voter contacts by phone call and door-to-door canvassing, said Kate Meriwether, state spokeswoman for the Romney campaign. She said that 250,000 of those contacts had been door knocks. That was nine times more phone calls and 64 times more door visits than the John McCain campaign had managed in Pennsylvania within two weeks of election day 2008, Meriwether said. Last Saturday, which was the monthly "Super Saturday" for the Romney GOTV effort, volunteers knocked on about 50,000 doors and made more than 130,000 phone calls.

On Wednesday, the state's top Republicans, Gov. Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey, said that they believe Pennsylvania is competitive despite what the polls have said. "My sense is that the polls reported on in the press diverged completely from the polls I had internally," Toomey said in a conference call with reporters. "I am just skeptical of the polling data I have seen." Corbett said that private GOP polls, which he did not detail, "lead me to believe that this race is much closer" than the 7.7 percentage point advantage Obama enjoyed in the average of all public Pennsylvania polls compiled by the Real Clear Politics website. The governor also suggested that voters are inured to 30-second spots. "Television ads have been on in this race for over a year now - a lot of people see (an) ad and turn it right off," Corbett said. "If we keep our head down and keep hitting these numbers, it's going to be a real shock to Team Obama in late October," Meriwether said.