Cable's Answer To A Changing TV Landscape? Stuff More Ads Into Every Hour

from the dancing-in-quicksand dept

As we’ve been covering, the cable and broadcast industry’s response to the shift toward Internet video appears to be a three-staged affair. Stage one was largely denial, with cable and broadcast executives either mocking (or denying the existence of) cord cutters, while going out of their way to try and ignore any data disproving their beliefs. Stage two is a one-two punch of desperately trying to milk a dying cash cow (like endless price hikes) while pretending to be innovative by offering largely uninteresting walled-garden services like TV Everywhere.

I’ll get to stage three later, but here in stage two, the industry remains very focused on doubling down on very bad ideas in the hopes an increasingly annoyed customer base won’t notice. As we’ve been noting, the viewership for both cable and broadcast TV is dropping, particularly in segments like kids programming, where parents are finding better value (and fewer ads) via services like Netflix. What’s cable’s response to this growing threat? Start shoving more and more ads into each viewing hour:

“Beset by declines in audience, a majority of U.S. cable networks stuffed more commercials onto their air in the fourth quarter, with Viacom boosting its ad load by 13% across its cable networks; A+E Networks increasing the number of commercials it runs by 10%; and Discovery Communications adding 9% more TV spots, according to research released Wednesday by independent analyst Michael Nathanson. On the broadcast side, Fox raised the number of spots it aired by 15% in the quarter, Nathanson said, while ABC and CBS reduced theirs by 2% and NBC cut its by 6%.”

Of course, cable and broadcast companies can get away with this because — despite all the grumbling about cable companies — the vast majority of consumers continue to pay an arm and a leg for vast bundles of cable content that they barely watch. By the time the numbers start to veer more sharply toward cord-cutting, many of these cable, phone or telco TV operators are going to be well behind the Netflix and Amazon eight ball. That will bring us to phase three, where cable and broadcast companies that refused to adapt will turn to their stranglehold over the broadband last mile, and start extracting their pound of flesh via usage caps.

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Comments on “Cable's Answer To A Changing TV Landscape? Stuff More Ads Into Every Hour”

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51 Comments
Ninjasays:

Customers answer to this stupidity? Go without it, accelerating the cord cutting process.

That will bring us to phase three, where cable and broadcast companies that refused to adapt will turn to their stranglehold over the broadband last mile, and start extracting their pound of flesh via usage caps.

Hopefully Tittle II will put an at least temporary road block on these plans. We will need to be very cautious in the legislative side though, they most certainly will try their hand there. My opinion is that we should strike first via FFTF, Demand Progress, EFF, Mozilla and others to out-lobby them and change the laws governing ISPs to allow much more competition.

Karl Bodesays:

Re:

Every indication I’ve seen from regulators is that they think usage caps are a “creative” expression of market pricing. I think there would have to be a particularly ham-fisted implementation of them to have regulators care (like only letting YOUR content get past the usage limit).

I think if ISPs want to bill like utilities they should have their meters regulated like utilities to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal, but that’s just me.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’ve seen instances where ISP usage meters tracked (and billed for) usage when the modem was off for several weeks due to power outage

You need to remember what a download usage meter is measuring: the amount of data other people choose to send to you. It doesn’t matter whether you want it or not, whether you’re listening or not. I think metered plans would disappear if people understood that. Could you imagine a postal system billing that way?

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

“You need to remember what a download usage meter is measuring: the amount of data other people choose to send to you. It doesn’t matter whether you want it or not, whether you’re listening or not.”

Huh? Is this a sarcastic answer? Forgive me if it is…

If what you say is true, then it’s not actually measuring download usage and therefore is not really a download usage meter.

In order for a download to occur, you definitely have to be accepting the traffic (and therefore listening for it). If someone chooses to send you data but your system is not accepting it, then no data is sent.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

The Internet is packet-based, not connection-based.

You don’t have to be listening for the traffic for it to arrive at your modem. It just has to have your modem’s IP address in the packet’s “destination address” field.

If your system is not listening for it, it will send back a “huh?” packet (ICMP port unreachable or TCP RST). Or it will ignore it, if it has a so-called “stealth firewall”. Either way, your modem already received the packet, so it counts for your “bytes received” counter.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The Internet is packet-based, not connection-based.

You don’t have to be listening for the traffic for it to arrive at your modem. It just has to have your modem’s IP address in the packet’s “destination address” field.”

TCP is connection-based. The actual data transfer does not begin until the receiver has acknowledged the connection.

What you say is correct for UDP communications, but that is not how file transfers are done, because it’s an unreliable mechanism: those packets are not guaranteed to be delivered, or to be delivered in the same order they were sent. In order to have that guarantee, you need to have a higher-level protocol (such as TCP, although that’s hardly the only one) that implements the necessary corrections. To do so requires the cooperation of the receiver.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

What you say is correct for UDP communications, but that is not how file transfers are done

Doesn’t matter. TCP data comes in IP packets, and I can send that TCP data whether you want it or not. An ISP could try to be clever and notice you’re not sending ACK packets (stateful firewalling in effect?kind of expensive at scale), or that you’re sending RST for every single thing I send. But then a clever customer could route the ACKs over a second connection so the ISP can’t see them (asymmetric routing is weird on consumer connections, but not really in general), and maybe configure the other end to ignore RSTs.

And anyway, even if you could determine whether TCP data was wanted, what about UDP? Do you allow it to go unmetered (with predictable effects when people notice)? Block it completely (and break all kinds of popular things)? How about DNS tunneling, 6to4, VPNs, and any other trick users could do to get around a meter?

The only solution is to reject “download billing” completely. Upload metering is sane, but still annoying?and even more difficult to really explain to users.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

The only solution is to reject “download billing” completely. Upload metering is sane, but still annoying?and even more difficult to really explain to users.

The asymmetrical nature of domestic connection, and the huge disparity in data flows between up and down, especially when watching videos make this a non starter.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

If we have to reject downstream and upstream metering, that’s fine too. I think most people would be okay with that: in places with actual competition, providers feel pressure to provide unmetered service. They always seem to underestimate the public backlash for data caps (“but you only ever use 8 GB on average, why wouldn’t you take the 10 GB limit to save a few bucks a month?”), but when there’s competion, even large ISPs have relented.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Datacaps have little to do with network management, as they do little to spread out the demand maximum actual bandwidth in short periods of time. They seem to have everything to do with limiting competition between the Internet and the other business of the ISP, like mobile phone calls an cable TV, where they can chronically overcharge the customers.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

By the way, I should also point out that ISPs almost never do any sort of verification of TCP packets. If I send you a valid IP packet of type 6 (TCP), with a TCP body that’s complete garbage, it will almost certainly arrive at your modem. Your PC will likely send an RST, which is like writing “return to sender” on a letter. Maybe the sender will stop contacting you, maybe not, maybe they forged the return address and won’t even see it. Just be glad nobody bills you on what other people decide to send (in the US, there’s even a law for the postal system: if somebody sends you an unsolicited item with a bill, you can consider it a gift).

art guerrillasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

in a related vein, i related how i was a ‘samknows’ participant for a number of years… one of the reasons i no longer am, is because of what i saw as COMPLETELY SHAM ‘measurements’ of my ISP ‘speed’…
according to these charts, my ISP service was NEVER off, NEVER below the advertised amount, and NEVER varied in any significant fashion… excepting one minor detail: the monthly samknows charts were showing ‘normal’ 3mps dsl speeds during WEEKS of TOTAL internet outage…
(BOTH from NO USABLE signal at the telephone post, to fried modem(S!) from lightning strike(S!), to fried ethernet ports, etc…)
WEEKS of ‘normal’ signals indicated on the charts, when i could not make a connection AT ALL; WEEKS of ‘normal’ connection indicated when THERE WAS NO SIGNAL AT THE POST, THEIR modem/router was NOT PLUGGED IN, or (later) FRIED, and/or our computers were inoperable…
WEEKS…
but the damn charts they are sending me over the 5-6 months these issues occur don’t show a blip, a hiccup, a jiggle…
bull-fucking-shit, says i, and tell them where to stuff their lying router…

SIlverBladesays:

Re:

“Customers answer to this stupidity? Go without it, accelerating the cord cutting process.”

Unfortunately, there are people out there who “need” to get cable because they ABSOLUTELY must have their sports channels.

The Cable industry knows this and won’t give up their cash cow that is the sport channels without a fight, even if it means increasing fees.

They know die-hard sports fans would pay up anyways.

Violynnesays:

Phase 3 isn’t going to happen, and we can see this because of the constant “disputes” between cable operators and content providers, who squabble over a few shows no one watches but people end up paying for.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the latest surge of people leaving cable was due to this very issue.

Since broadcasters think their ads are why people are tuning in, let them increase the number of ads. This will only ensure their demise, which can’t come sooner.

Unfortunately, what’s left is the crap like Hulu, which not only infuses ads into their streaming services, but charges people for the privilege.

It will be this that is truly phase three: make people pay for both the service and the ads, just like it was in the “good old days”, where choice never existed.

Violynnesays:

Re:

Now try watching 24 on a streaming service.

42 minutes of show.

That’s a 6 minute difference.

3 minutes per half hour.

I remember when cable shows, you know, because we paid for them, didn’t have commercials.

Now look at it.

Streaming services will do the exact same thing and AdBlock won’t help you out (especially now that even more companies are paying to make it worthless).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Looking at 1960s (and earlier) shows uncut on DVD, I see a 52-minute runtime for a 1-hour show and 26 minutes for a 1/2 hour show.
Nostalgia stations like MeTV either cut footage (like on their Star Trek reruns) or speed it up slightly (Batman and most other shows) to get more than 8 minutes of ads per hour.

John Nemeshsays:

Re:

Ever try to watch a movie these days? As a child, I would watch a 90 minute movie on TV (in the 70s), and it would take 2 hours. Watch that same movie today? THREE hours! Thats another full SIXTY MINUTES of ads padded in there…and it makes watching movies on cable TV simply unbearable. Adding another 10% or so? Deal breaker. When they start doing this I am cutting off cable, I don’t care if it IS more expensive for my internet without it!

Jamessays:

Same Cost

Not sure about most of you but here in Florida Internet with or without cable TV is the same cost. Unless I want to upgrade the cable package and then it adds like 30 bucks a month to my bill.

We have Verizon,Brighthouse and Wow services to choose from. All come with the same 150 dollar a month bill. The only difference is the provider UI

McCreasays:

Re: Same Cost

My Time Warner Cable internet only service was $45 five years ago. Then my nephew moved in and we added “the cheapest per month TV package.”

It’s $192.55. So, not the same price at all. Service is the same though at a shitty 1.5 downstream.

Happy to report that I don’t pay the modem rental fee though. Haha, I really worked them over!

Haywoodsays:

Due to reduced ridership, we are again raising fares

Many of you are not old enough to remember pre-cable TV. Back in the antenna only days, we got a channel or 2 and found it sufficient. The idea of pay TV was being floated, and one of the main selling points was; no commercials. Once the idea took root, they kept this promise for a good many years. It started with one commercial, now it is as bad, if not worse, than free TV. We let them get by with it, and now it is the business model. I never have paid for commercials, I cut the cord when the only alternative was to go back to antenna.

tomsays:

To paraphrase the Star Wars comment, “The more commercials you stuff down our throats, the more we will cut the cord.”

The reality is that most shows now feature 100% commercial time, if you count the station ID bug that often features an ad for a different show, not to mention the always popular pop up ads for yet another show. And it often isn’t just one bug. Some networks have three, the station id bug, a second one for the next show ad and a 3rd for the twitter channel. For me, those networks are now on my don’t watch list.

It really is getting to the point where it would be cheaper to drop cable altogether and go old school. Just buy DVD/BR bundles of series I want as they come up during sales. No buffering or bandwidth issues. Just watch the shows I want with no bugs, pop ups or other ads.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Just buy DVD/BR bundles of series I want as they come up during sales. No buffering or bandwidth issues. Just watch the shows I want with no bugs, pop ups or other ads.

The no ads part only applies after you have ripped them, and got rid of whatever crap the MPAA insists that you cannot skip at the start of the film.

naschsays:

Re: Doing the Math

A 13% increase in the commercial time over a single quarter? If that continues, within 12 quarters, 3 years, the “shows” will be literally 100% percent commercials.

No they won’t, that isn’t how percentages work. You can’t just multiply 13 by 12 to get the increase. With a 60 minute show, starting with 20 minutes of commercials and increasing by 13% every quarter, it would be 33.9 minutes of commercials after 3 years, and it would take over 8 years to be entirely commercials.

TMCsays:

Ad nausea

As nausea: (modern meaning) the point at which repetition or frequency of advertisements turns a convenient legal platform into an inconvenient platform relative to its illegal counterpart.

I’ve taken to streaming from sites other than Hulu because hearing that shit over and over is starting to affect my brain. I hear that shit while I’m trying to sleep. OP cable’s plan is just going to make cable the more inconvenient option… And with fixed schedules and ads on top of the huge monthly fees, it was pretty fucking close to begin with.

WDSsays:

Network Provided Steaming and On-Demand are worse

If I record a show on my DVR during a normal broadcast, I can fast forward through the commercials. If on the same DVR I happen to miss it, or the service was out, or the national broadcast was preempted by a local weather alert, if I get the same show On-Demand, it is locked and I can’t fast forward through the commercials. Same with watching the show on-line on the network site.

The commercials on-line are more irritating because they repeat the same two or three over and over in every break. That doesn’t encourage me to buy the product, it makes me swear to never buy it.

Leonardosays:

Hidden Elephant in the Net Neutrality debate: Retransmission Fees

Stage 3 and the pound of flesh being extracted is already here. It is called Retransmission fees. The growth in broadband subscribers has been subsidizing the growth in retransmission fees (cable carriage) which is expected to double the next 4 years despite declining payTV bundle subscribers. As a NYC Time Warner Cable subscriber I only have one provider because the NYC landlord only allows one provider in the building so they can take their % share of the revenue. Further I’m paying $65 for 12-15mps when TWC states its providing 100mps yet they advertise my same broadband service with payTV for the same prive $65. Basically giving TV away for free but they are really not- broadband is subsidizing retransmission fee growth. Which begets the question of net neutrality and fast lanes then what is retransmission fees doing here?????? The elephant is already extracting its pound of flesh silently and deeply.

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