So you wait for a year for the new season of Mad Men, but when you turn to AMC, you get a message saying the channel has been blacked out because it's having a fight with Dish Network. Or maybe one day this week you, naked and unemployed, tuned in to The Price Is Right to get your Plinko fix, and found there's nothing there but static, because Time Warner Cable is in some kind of beef with CBS.
Then you realize this bullshit is happening constantly now. But why?
#4. There Are Sleazy Conflicts of Interest Everywhere
So why would CBS and Time Warner Cable be fighting? Can CBS really be demanding too much money to carry nine different iterations of CSI? Well, the answer might have something to do with the fact that CBS owns Showtime, and Time Warner wants to drop Showtime from its bundle. Why would Time Warner want to do such a thing? Because they own Showtime's leading competitor in Sinbad standup specials and softcore pornography: HBO. Which basically makes this the equivalent of a convenience store owned by Coke negotiating prices with Pepsi.
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Like Game of Thrones, but the backstabbing is figurative and the boobs on display are executives.
And Time Warner -- as in Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting -- owns CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, and many other stations. In other words, it's not in Time Warner's best interest to have every station. The same goes for Comcast, otherwise known as Comcast/NBCUniversal. So these "Coke Store Selling Pepsi" conflicts are happening every second of every day. And as a result of that ...
#3. You the Viewer Are Caught in the Middle of Their Bullshit Petty Feuds
The "Mad Men blackout" we mentioned earlier when Dish Network dropped AMC? AMC insists it was out of spite, due to a totally unrelated lawsuit between the companies. In the case of CBS and Time Warner, both parties have totally different accounts of what the negotiations are even about, like it's an episode of Judge Judy (which, yes, is a show that Time Warner customers can no longer watch). But no matter what they're bickering about, just flipping off the TV for millions of elderly viewers who don't know how to torrent their favorite shows is their go-to move whenever either side isn't happy. They just don't hesitate for a moment to piss off millions of their own customers to make a point.
While also pathetically trying to get those same fans to back them up via social media.
Usually the issue is that the provider of the programming won't sell the dish or cable company the popular channels (like AMC, the home of Breaking Bad) unless they also agree to buy a bunch of shit nobody watches (like WE TV, the home of Bridezillas) so that they then can force you to buy a $100 cable package with 300 channels, of which you only watch six. And here's where we start to see the real problem ...
#2. There Are All Sorts of Obsolete, Pre-Internet Rules About Who Can Broadcast What
Thanks to the Time Warner blackout, anyone in LA, Houston, or New York had to take an extensive, pissed-off drive to watch Tiger Woods hit balls around. Or, you know, find somebody on the Internet streaming it from their TV from any other city. Well, shit, why can't the cable company do that? Just grab the signal from another city, and pay them for it?
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"Sorry, but that's entirely too logical."
The answer is the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of Freaking 1992 -- a law that, in the interest of keeping broadcast television alive, said no cable provider can go to an out-of-area broadcaster of the same content for a cheaper price. Meaning that local broadcasters don't have to compete with those other cities.
It was a totally reasonable idea in 1992, a strange time when people couldn't see high definition tits in under six seconds with a swipe of their cellphone. So while the rest of the world has vaulted ahead into the 21st century, TV broadcasting is operating under regulations invented when Cheers was still on the air.
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Woody might actually get pot legalized before they even try to fix this.
And now that there are localized blackouts, it's either all or nothing -- meaning that Time Warner can't simply take the daytime sports and news broadcasting from CBS 8 over in San Diego and show it to LA, because broadcast TV still thinks viewers will accept their fate rather than just steal that shit.
In other words ...
#1. It's the Dying Gasps of a Dinosaur Industry
While it takes two to not tango, both sides of every blackout appear to go into it assuming the other will break when customers scream to get their Two and a Half Men reruns back. CBS is currently using a billboard in the middle of Times Square to protest Time Warner, who in turn has been broadcasting on CBS a blacked-out screen with a message saying that the station has demanded "outrageous increases for programming." It's as if they think people are out there desperately toying with their radio antennas hoping for any news about their blackout and not, say, just downloading their shit.
"Only the most highly trained of hackers can do that, right?"
In fact, CBS even blocked their legal online content from Time Warner customers, ensuring that the only way people could get Under the Dome was from a site specializing in breast gif advertising. And boy did they, as CBS programming piracy spiked considerably the moment the blackout began. Weird ... it's almost like these arbitrary barriers that used to wall off content are now made only of wishful thinking and hilarious anti-piracy PSAs.
Which they probably used pirated material to make.
So while two archaic giants use the townspeople as fodder in their petty squabble, we can all look forward to watching them beg for us to not switch to Google Fiber in a few years -- a cheap, high-speed Internet and streaming service that Time Warner thinks no one will want.