Cable TV has spent the last five years watching streaming video not-so-slowly nibble away at its cash cow, and the solution has mostly been to raise “programming fees” every year. Although the industry has enjoyed decades of heady profits and regional monopolies, streaming packages are becoming increasingly popular and cable isn’t doing much to compete.
So in a way, cable companies should be embracing a Senate bill recently introduced by Massachusetts senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats, that would force Charter to carry some specific Boston affiliate channels, rather than the Albany versions. It’s a relatively minor bill, but increased Congressional action to sort out the nightmare of out-of-market sports and TV blackouts would be a great thing, and one that could lower people’s frustration with cable and make them less likely to defect.
The specific issue that this bill addresses is that some residents of Berkshire County, MA, are in the Albany TV zone, so receive news and sports programming for Albany residents, rather than the Massachusetts news from Boston. It’s not a matter of paying extra money — in many cases, it’s impossible to follow a sport or local affairs because your cable company has decided (fairly arbitrarily) that you’re probably not interested.
“Berkshire County residents deserve programming that is relevant to their community and allows them to stay up-to-date on political affairs, follow their favorite sports teams, and keep up-to-date on important weather and emergency alerts,” said Senator Warren, according to Multichannel. “I’m glad to work with my Massachusetts colleagues on a bill to help to reintroduce local programming to the Berkshires.”
Meanwhile, Charter (also known as Spectrum) gave a typically passive-aggressive statement in response to the news. “Spectrum is committed to bringing our customers the best products and programming,” the company said in a statement. “We know many of our local customers are interested in Massachusetts-focused programming, and we remain open-minded about a solution that doesn’t drive up costs or result in a negative viewing experience.”