A Slight Revision

I’ve been meaning to write this for a day or two, but life keeps getting in the way. Friday was nuts at work with a lot of time spent on a forthcoming title plus a cover meeting to pick images for releases from June to August 2006 (wow, what a concept). Saturday was errands, errands, errands followed by the last bit of raking. This morning, I found myself switching from rake to shovel as the first snow of the year blanketed Fairfield in white silence. It was very nice waking up to that silence.

Anyway, no sooner did I write my letter to Cablevision on Thursday than I discovered on Friday that Charles Dolan, the founder of the firm, has gone on the record in favor of ala carte. In fact, according to an article I found that Dolan has been in favor of the format, going so far as to testify to that in 2003.

So, I have rewritten the letter and in the interests of accuracy, share this with you:

John Bickham
President – Cable & Communications
Cablevision Systems Corp.
1111 Stewart Avenue
Bethpage, NY 11714

Dear Mr. Bickham,

Following up on my letter from the spring, I couldn’t let this past week’s news from the FCC go without comment.

As I stated earlier this year, I feel Cablevision, if not switching entirely to an ala carte package, should take a leadership role and offer clustered tiers, similar to your existing Sports Pak. This way, viewers can at least build a service that would please them and still profit you.

While I have always agreed with Kevin Martin’s ala carte concept, I do recognize that this may prove too pricey to be useful. I suspect the jury is out on this issue but it does allow for survival of the fittest channels that have the programming people want, so they have enough viewers to keep the price low as opposed to specialized channels where the diehard viewers will be willing to pay a somewhat higher price. In turn, that gives the channel a very specific demographic which would allow them to profit by setting the appropriate ad rates.

Imagine my surprise to see coverage of Charles Dolan’s comments in support of the FCC’s statements. According to the coverage, Mr. Dolan has been in favor of ala carte for years. I applaud that but now must question why then, the i/oDigital Cable packages are so limited. Rather than say he’s in favor, why does he not show his customers and his competitors how it can be done.

You have a huge gap between Basic and your Silver and Gold packages. Knowing full well that the average viewer uses seventeen out of the hundred-plus channels, you need to start addressing these varied interests. In between the pricey packages you could offer a family tier or a Shopping Pak. If nothing else, a Bronze Package should offer the basic premium movie channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, The Movie Channel and Encore) without the dozen iterations of each channel so someone can be exposed to the full spectrum of feature films at a more affordable price.

You also push the On Demand channels. The selling point seems to be the ability to see a feature film sooner. If I’m paying $80+ a month for i/oGold, where’s the benefit of shelling out an additional $4.95 just to watch a movie three months sooner? On Demand doesn’t have anything compelling at this time, something that needs to be addressed.

While the thrust of the Congressional and FCC commentary was in response the “indecency” issue, something that has been debated since Philo Farnsworth broadcast the first signal, Cablevision shouldn’t lose sight of the customer dissatisfaction with current offerings. I certainly don’t want all the channels I currently receive and when you jack my rates up another 2% next month, I’ll resent it even further.

A final note from a customer: after the YES debacle, I hope you avoid fights over the Sportsnet New York and have it ready to debut when the Mets open their season on April 3.

I look forward to hearing back from you (as opposed to a clueless customer service rep, as happened in the spring).

One comment

  • Paul1963

    I’d love a la carte cable if it would reduce my bill. Right now, I’m paying Millennium $83 a month (for analog, mind you, with three HBOs, two Cinemaxes, two Showtimes and the always-noisy Movie Channel)and there are many channels I never watch (QVC, HSN, the Golf Channel, BET and more).

    Paul