Powell Powwow: NCTA Head Warns Programming Wars Could Invite the Govt

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As we head into a season known for programming disputes, NCTA CEO Michael Powell is warning both sides to exert caution. “We all ought to wake up and be careful–programmers and operators–about how we manage our relationship with each other and out of fiduciary responsibility to the consumer so we don't blow this to smithereens at some point and invite the govt to come do it for you, which I think no one would be a winner in,” he said during an interview on C-SPAN's “The Communicators.” The response came after he was asked about when programming costs, particularly sports, exceed the ability of the masses to pay for them (debuts Sat at 6:30pm; also available at C-SPAN.org). He called it “the billion dollar question,” with different leaders having different views on when that is. “I can't control that the NFL has the power to demand a 73% increase for 'Monday Night Football,' which I find astonishingly insane,” Powell said. “I can't believe Alex Rodriguez makes $250mln a year to play baseball, but he does. And by the way, there are enough Americans with an intensity of passion about these things… I have Yankee [fan] family members who would pay half their mortgage to go see the Yankees in the World Series. It's just the reality of the value of a lot of content that gets pushed through the system.” The cable trade group chief also tackled the notion of TV advertising losing its power. He acknowledged that the Internet provides more real time answers to investment questions, but said “don't count the TV ad as dead.” Instead, he said the spots have to become more entertaining, a la Super Bowl Commercials. And while TV Everywhere and expanding TV to other devices is important, Powell made the case that viewers still like to just stumble on programming, citing TLC's “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and A&E's “Duck Dynasty” as examples (see “Ratings” below). “I think that's still a huge part of the American television experience, and I think it gets sold short when we get techno-orgasmic talking about anytime, anywhere, anyhow.”

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