Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Changing Channels

Last week we issued a press release which described the EPB’s decision on the broadcast stations matter we have been discussing for a couple of months. In case you missed that information, this post should help make the changes, and the events which lead to these alterations to our basic cable lineup clear. The bottom line is that we were not able to convince some of the broadcasters to accept reasonable rates and those stations will disappear from our lineup on January 1. Some of those openings will be filled with new broadcast stations. Disappointingly, the prices we were able to negotiate are still such that an increase to our basic cable rates of $1.75 per month will become effective January 1, 2009. We hate doing this, but, as a non-profit corporation, we do not have the funds to absorb these increases without passing them along to our customers.

Beyond the changes to our basic cable lineup, there are also a number of changes about to happen at all levels of our various programming tiers. Although we are happy to be bringing back some old favorites like WSMV and WHAS, we are not proud of the confusion that many of you will feel when you go looking for programs you are accustomed to viewing after January 1. However, we have developed a chart that should be useful in helping you track the changes. You can view that chart by clicking on this link. As you can see, there are going to be a lot of new stations and programs in a lot of new positions. Over all, we hope you will find these changes welcome and an enhancement of our product.

We don’t want to belabor the point, but the broadcast station that is responsible for the lion’s share of the rate increase is WBKO in Bowling Green. We do not intend to forget about this cruel injustice and we don’t want you to forget either. Far too often, Glasgow’s economy leaks precious dollars to businesses in Bowling Green. The demand of WBKO and their parent company, Gray Television, Inc., for $50,000 per year from the people of Glasgow, in return for our continued right to view their programming, is overtly greedy, no matter how you slice it. In return for the new $50,000 per year charge we get nothing new from WBKO. They are not opening a local office in Glasgow and employing any local folks. They are not dedicating any new minutes of their newscasts to Glasgow issues. They are not converting their newscasts to High Definition to complement our HD tier. Rather, the real story behind this charge is likely the need of their parent company for new revenue in return for no new expense. Gray Television, Inc., (a link to their website is here) has something less than an outstanding record of financial performance. Looking at their corporate information one discovers that their common stock was selling for about $9 a year ago and, as this is written, a share of their stock is now selling for under 50 cents! In fact, the New York Stock Exchange recently notified them that their stock will be removed from the NYSE if its value continues to be so low. So, it seems a safe bet that their plan for replacing revenue that they are unable to generate by simply running an efficient business in a free market system is to gouge the cable operators and, ultimately, the viewers that are essential to their plan to sell advertising. They do not appear to be financial geniuses. In summary, in a fashion similar to the recent decisions by our government to bail out businesses who became ineffective through corruption and greed, the people of Glasgow, and other cities where they do business, are also bailing out the folks at Gray Television, Inc.

While I am ranting, you should know that the greed epidemic does not begin and end in the halls of the broadcast stations. We are also fighting a similar infection with the folks at NBC Universal. NBCU owns several services that we provide to our customers in Glasgow. They are CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Sci-Fi, Bravo, UHD and the extended Olympics Games coverage. Right now they are asking for increases in the fees charged for these services that run from 8% to 26% with the guarantee of additional increases each year of about 12%. These increases are both aggressive and unrealistic and we, along with a large number of small cable operators like us, are refusing to agree to these increases. Although it would really surprise me if they cut off our signals from these services on January 1 as our discussions continue, it is certainly within the range of possibilities. It seems that greed knows no boundaries of conventional wisdom.

Finally, it is that time of year again when our refusal to cave in to the outlandish demands of the folks at Fox Sports Net South results in our customers not being able to watch a few University of Kentucky Men’s basketball games. As most UK fans already know, FSNS has exclusive broadcast rights to five UK vs. “Cupcake U” games each year and this year is no exception. Those games are as follows and they will not be available on our cable system:

Dec. 3rd, UK vs Lamar
Dec. 7th, UK vs Mississipp Valley St.
Dec. 20th, UK vs Appalachian St.
Dec. 27th, UK vs Florida Atlantic
Dec. 29th, UK vs Central Michigan

The only hope for watching these games may be to go to www.espn360.com and watch them on your computer!

4 comments:

qms said...

$1.75 per epb customer X 12 months = $50,000 or $50,000/12/$1.75=2,381 EPB TOTAL CUSTOMERS IS THAT RIGHT?

Billy Ray said...

Not exactly. The $1.75 is the total of what we are going to pay all the broadcasters we continue to carry. Of that $1.75, WBKO is responsible for about $.52. Which, when multiplied by our number of subscribers, equals about $50,000 per year. All the broadcasters combined will cause us to export nearly $160,000 per year from Glasgow's economy.

clh said...

A full list of regular season games broadcast by FSNS that UK fans have missed include:
11/14/08 vs. Virginia Military Institute
11/22/08 vs. Delaware State
11/24/08 vs. Longwood
12/03/08 vs. Lamar
12/07/08 vs. Mississippi Valley State
12/20/08 vs. Appalachian State
12/22/08 vs. Tennessee State
12/27/08 vs. Florida Atlantic
12/29/08 vs. Central Michigan

"Cupcake" teams or no I would still like to watch games on tv rather than a computer or listening to the radio.

Also I would like to keep the channels from Bowling Green over those from Louisville or Nashville because it is more local than 90 miles away. They do provide news that affect Glasgow such as when WKU's campus was shut down. Several students live in Glasgow and travel to Bowling Green for classes. I appreciated having a news channel giving up to date information.

Billy Ray said...

clh,
We would certainly like to provide the FSNS games, but at a cost of $100,000 per year it just seems a ridiculous additional insult to our local economy.

You are getting your wish relative to the Bowling Green channels. We are keeping them but begrudge the fact that the community will now be paying through the nose for something that is only reasonably priced when free.

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