The Right Connections
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 16:22
Bruce the Blog
By Bruce Apar
Mayor, PennySaver Community
Two guys walk into a home. One guy says to the homeowners, “Hi, we’re from Lakeview Consultants in Mahopac.” Their firm’s client is Verizon. They wear Verizon ID security badges to allay any stray notion that a home invasion is in the offing. Such are the anxious times in which we peer in fear over our shoulder.
Responding to their inquiry, we tell them the dollar amount of our monthly phone, internet and TV bill, a mix of Verizon and Cablevision services. (Though Cablevision, which also owns a newspaper, sports teams and entertainment venues, is rebranding its home services strictly as Optimum.) Their eyes widened by vicarious sticker shock, the pair says that switching to Verizon would net us at least four immediate benefits: 1) The tri-service bill would be nearly halved; 2) Our internet speed would increase up to seven-fold; 3) We could DVR a show for playback on any TV in the house; 4) The HD screen image would be noticeably superior to cable transmission.
Not only that, they add, but we couldn’t get the same dollar deal direct through Verizon, only through them. They name two neighbors of ours whom they converted to Fios the previous week.
However — and it is a very big HOWEVER — the public access TV channel 74 I now have on Cablevision disappears with Verizon.
I explain my on-air involvement in two Cablevision local access programs each week – cohost of Frank Talks with Bruce the Blog and moderator on Grace Notes featuring Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace. Verizon Fios does carry the Yorktown Government Channel (33). But it’s hard to imagine my not being able to watch my other show on TV, albeit we burn DVD copies of each episode that are uploaded to YouTube channel NCNLocal TV.
There’s also Cablevision’s News 12 I routinely watch (though I’m not sure what happened with its Election Night coverage, which in some key races proved noticeably behind real-time returns readily available via other media, including the Board of Elections website I accessed to check the latest vote counts).
They say News 12 could be watched with an online widget for a $5 monthly subscription. Far from an ideal solution, as my facial expression conveys to them. That’s not the only minus with Fios; the Cablevision public access channels are not carried on Fios.
I ask the Lakeview boys (if that conjures up The Godfather, you know the Hyman Roth dialogue) why Verizon doesn’t create its own versions of those channels? They indicate it’s a good question because they hear the identical objection to switching from other Cablevision subscribers.
That raises the question why the same rules of mandatory carriage do not apply as in the over-the-air-to-cable crossover: cable operators are required by law to carry over-the-air channels (eg, ABC, NBC, etc.) under mandatory transmission rules administered by the Federal Communications Commission.
The answer is that in cable television-speak, such programming streams are retention products that generate no revenue (they carry no commercials) and fulfill a valued community service.
The same goes for MSG Varsity being a retention tool for Optimum. Switching to Verizon from Cablevision means you lose that channel too. Just like I am loathe to jettison News 12 – or be required to pay $5 a month to watch it online — for families with student-athletes, giving up MSG Varsity is no small sacrifice of televiewing habits.
In TV broadcasting, when cable TV emerged, over-the-air channels insisted that cable operators be required to carry their signals, but there’s no logic to Cablevision’s wanting arch-rival Fios to carry the Optimum retention channels, since Cablevision uses those to prevent defections to Fios, a strategy that has proved effective enough for Cablevision.
Those retention channels exist to hold on to subscribers, not attract them, and that’s exactly the dilemma we now face in considering whether to slash almost 50% off our current monthly entertainment utility expenditure by switching to Verizon: are those channels, unavailable through Fios, compelling enough to retain us as customers?
For that matter, could we possibly haggle with our current provider to drive down the price in return for retaining their services. Like the old Tareyton cigarette tagline said, “I’d rather fight than switch.”
Will we aspire to a new Verizon in our home or will Optimum remain to be seen?
That remains to be seen… so stay tuned.