NEW YORK (
) - A surge of reader comments for a story about
made clear what we all know: a lot of people are sick-and-tired of having to pay $120 or more per month for hundreds of TV channels that they never watch.
To make things worse, some of the most popular channels are suddenly removed because a couple of companies with market capitalizations exceeding $30 billion can't agree on how to divide the profits from their industry-created business model.
Time Warner Cable
were roundly criticized by readers for their four-week-old dispute that has led to a blackout of the networks' channels for subscribers of the pay-TV service in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Rob Tentoy wrote that "CBS wants more money from Time Warner to air their programming. Time Warner won't pay more so CBS won't let them air it.Time Warner sucks, but they are in a no win situation... pay more to CBS (which means subscribers pay more) or not have CBS. Either way, customers get angry and leave."
A ticked-off reader named Roger Johnson added that "The straw that broke the camels back, CBS blocked us from accessing their website because TWC provides my broadband access so I can not even access their shows through internet. So screw you CBS I will get used to not seeing your shows except in syndication. And secondly screw you too TWC for starting this mess to begin with."
In other words, a plague on both their houses.
At issue is the amount of money Time Warner Cable is willing to pay CBS to carry the network's programming. As the comments made clear, it's hard to claim that either company is doing anything but what their shareholders want them to do: extract the best deal possible while doing as little damage as possible to their "relationship" with customers.
But the relationship may be fraying, raising interest, albeit at the margins, for cord-cutting, rejecting the pay-TV bundle altogether. Many readers relayed how they're piecing together their own a la carte television viewing using simple technology -- a TV "rabbit ears" antennae available at most electronics stores -- and a variety of online offerings.
A reader by the name of Lacerz wrote: "I get CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS, and a slew of other stations over the air. Netflix and Hulu fill in the gaps. If it's something I must watch and don't want to wait for, I buy a season pass from Amazon (hello Breaking Bad finale). Saving over $1,000 a year and not missing a thing."
CalJames40 added that: "We cut the cord two weeks ago and we're not even affected in San Jose, California. We ordered HDTV antennas for our local broadcasting of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, the rest goes through our Netflix and Slingbox. Everything on cable television has gone to crap and we got tired of paying for it."
continues to be a beneficiary of these blackouts as more viewers turn to the television series and movie provider for their dramas while leaning on services such as MLB.TV for their sports.
, the upstart online provider of broadcast television, remains an enticing option for in New York and a handful of other areas where the service has been launched.
Of course, all this talk of cord-cutting is little satisfaction if you're set on accessing ESPN or a 24-hour news channel such as CNN, FoxNews or MSNBC. And that's the rub. Some of these channels are accessible only through pay-TV, and those networks are demanding more money from pay-TV providers such as Time Warner Cable.
Another option altogether is pirating, which the reader Krip Toker appeared to gleefully embrace, exclaiming that: "Torrents are free *wink*"
But not everyone is either savvy enough or comfortable with the notion of pirating television shows. The music industry got hot and bothered over Napster, but eventually
showed them that most listeners would gladly pay for music as long as they didn't have to buy an over-priced, pumped-up CD for $16.
Ultimately, the iTunes model may eventually become the platform for a la carte television, and in the end, consumers may end up paying as much as they do now to access the traditional pay-TV bundle. But at least they'll have the satisfaction of buying content they actually want to watch.
>News stories and columns by Leon Lazaroff