With Thanksgiving upon us, my social media feed is full of friends and colleagues expressing what they’re most thankful for this year. I share their gratitude for family, friends, health and Starbucks’ peppermint mochas. But the cable trade reporter in me has plenty of industry-related news to be thankful for in 2013. Just a few highlights…
Cable Consolidation: There hasn’t been a really big merger among operators since Time Warner Cable and Comcast split up Adelphia back in ’06. That’s a lot of pent-up excitement that the Bresnan deals and Insight acquisition just couldn’t quite satisfy. Plus, John Malone is back in cable, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. His re-entry has everyone on their toes—with savvy journos brushing up on tax law… Cable stocks have received a nice rise from this consolidation chatter, which has persisted since June, so I know I’m not the only one to have this in my thankful catalog.
Retransmission Consent: Retrans is the gift that keeps on giving and giving. This year’s poster child was CBS and Time Warner Cable, which I think surprised most of us by its longevity. Consumers who lost CBS stations and Showtime for a month probably wouldn’t include this on a list of things they’re thankful for, but as a reporter who has been covering these disputes for 13 years, it’s always interesting to see what new tactics emerge in these never-ending battles. This time around it was CBS withholding its online programming from all TWC broadband subs, whether they lost CBS stations or not. There has been some concerns raised over this, but it wasn’t nearly as noisy as when Fox tried the same tactic during its retrans feud with Fox 3 years ago.
OTT: My OTT cup has runneth over this year. Not only is there increasing noise about finding a way to blend OTT with traditional MVPDs, but there have been some strong original series that have debuted on the platform. I haven’t had time to yet to check out Amazon’s “Alpha House,” but the reviews are pretty positive, with the L.A. Times calling it “an accomplished piece of work.” Netflix has been on a role, following its highly addictive “House of Cards” with the clever “Orange is the New Black.” What I’m most thankful for is that OTT stories aren’t only about cord-cutting these days.
Full FCC: Mignon Clyburn accomplished quite a lot during her tenure as an interim chair. But there are certain things that just aren’t going to be addressed without a full Commission—like finalized spectrum auction rules or that lingering draft order over whether Comcast-NBCU attorneys should be able to look at the deals online video providers have with other content companies if the provider invokes the benchmark condition from the Comcast-NBCU merger. And then there’s retrans. The previous FCC proved that even a full Commission doesn’t ensure action, with a Media Bureau NPRM on retrans lingering since its approval in Mar ’11. However, there is renewed hope that Wheeler, a former NCTA chief, might take a look at the issue.
Scripted TV: After countless cupcake, tattoo and pawn shows, it’s refreshing to see the onslaught of scripted series. Yes, I could wax poetically about how this is the Golden Age of TV, but as a cable reporter, I’m most thankful for how it elevates my coolness level at cocktail parties.