Friday, September 09, 2011

When Your Business Model is Held Hostage by ESPN

Dish Network Crying Foul Instead of Uncle

Cable and satellite TV companies take a perverse pleasure in bitching and moaning about how much they have to pay to carry the ESPN suite of channels, which is already nearing five bucks a subscriber. And that's without the $15.2 billion in additional coin the gang in Bristol will fork over to the NFL for the rights to Monday Night Football through 2021.
Since Disney doled out the cash for less-than-altruistic reasons, there's every expectation that subscriber fees will be jacked up once again to pay the pigskin tab.
Now, the New York Post reports Dish Network doesn't want to play ball and may pull the plug on the Worldwide Leader in Sports. But can it?
I mean, it could, but is that the satellite equivalent of hari-kari. This is ESPN, not the Cooking Channel or Current TV. It's ESP-friggin-N, as in no way can you not have it as part of your channel offerings.
Actually, Dish's threat has a proviso. It would reluctantly pay the presumably higher fee if it could put the ESPNs on a higher-priced sports tier and not as part of its basic cable package. It's obvious why ESPN wouldn't want that. But would it risk losing access to Dish's 13.5 million subscribers? On the other hand, would Dish suffer mass defections if ESPN wasn't on its roster?
The company may take that chance. It already took a hard line against regional sports networks, which is why you don't see YES, MSG or SNY--and why Dish probably doesn't have much penetration in the New York area.
But ESPN? C'mon. Dish may have to suck this one up. If it doesn't, you know DirecTV will be ready with open arms---and satellite dishes of its own beaming down ESPN. Sure, it won't be cheap, but not having the network will be a lot more pricey.

Why Ben Bernanke Should Not Cancel His New York Times Subscription

Story Placement Shows How Fed Chief's Claims That Consumers Doth Protest Too Much Ring Hollow

On the front page of today's Business Day section of The New York Times, there's an article headlined Fed Chief Describes Consumers As Too Bleak. Ben Bernanke gave a speech yesterday in Minneapolis, where he said, sure, there are reasons to be depressed about the economy, for all of the obvious reasons. But as sort of a bizarre coda, he tacked on: "Even taking into account the many financial pressures they face, households seem exceptionally cautious."
You think.
The way Bernanke sees it, consumers are in panic mode and hoarding cash. They believe the sky is falling, when clouds are merely darkening.
He's entitled to his opinion, but being as trenchant a student of economic history that he is, Bernanke should also know that perception definitely bleeds into reality.
As evidence, the article at the bottom of the same page headlined Customers Hurting, Wal-Mart is Bringing Back Layaway. Seems enough customers have given up on credit cards and used up their gift cards.
As Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart's chief merchandising officer told the Times: It just tells us the customer's still struggling, as they tell us about their concerns with energy prices, housing prices, the job security .... it tell us that this is a fragile economy and the customer needs our help."
I don't know how many Fed chiefs have ever stepped foot in a Wal-Mart. Bernanke could sure use a visit.