Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cox Cable Removes WPIX From Meriden System Channel Line Up

BREAKING NEWS: Cox Communications is eliminating WPIX from the channel line-up of its Meriden system, which also includes subscribers in Cheshire and Southington.

Cox's Meriden system subscribers have not had access to the channel since last Friday when Cablevision blacked out WPIX's feed in a dispute with the New York City-base television station's owner, Tribune Co., over retransmission fees. Cablevision's Connecticut systems and Cox share a line use to bring WPIX's retransmission into the state and so Cox's Meriden customers were affected as a result.

A Cox regional spokeswoman, Dana Alexander Nolfe, had told the New Haven Register last Friday that Cox was working to rectify the problem. But on Wednesday, an angry subscriber from Meriden received this e-mail from a customer service representative at the company's New England headquarters, which is based in Rhode Island:                                                              

"Thank you for your recent e-mail to Cox regarding general questions for community outreach.

We do apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. At this time, Cox has decided to remove WPIX-11 from the channel lineup. Rather than find an alternative way to receive the signal, we've opted to discontinue the channel so that we can use the bandwidth to increase Internet speeds and add future HDTV content."

A call was placed to Nolfe shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday after the newspaper was made aware of the e-mail an hour or so earlier. In the meantime, I'd like to know what Cox's Meriden customers think of the company's actions.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Thoughts On The Cablevision-Tribune Co. Showdown

The frustrating thing about these battles between program providers and cable television system operators is that the consumer always loses.

First we have to endure endless commercial from both sides, telling viewers to call the other and tell them to cave in. These advertisements are becoming more frequent and annoying, almost like the political advertisements we have to endure during the run up to primaries and general elections.

 Today,  I saw an odd twist on that kind of advertisement on American Movie Classic on Cox Communications' Meriden cable system. It was reminding Cox customers that DISH Network removed  AMC from its channel line-up because of a dispute between the two companies.

I also saw this Tweet from Fox 61 that amounts to an advertisement:

Don't let Cablevision shut down FoxCT! Call 800-809-6077 or go to to support your favorite local news station!
                                                                                                                                                                                 Although Cablevision has blacked out Tribune's WPIX on its systems because of the dispute, FoxCT -aka Hartford-based Fox61 - hasn't suffered the same fate yet. But apparently, Tribune officials feel compelled to launch a preemptive strike against Cablevision on that one.

So, here's my question: How is do these "advertisements" serve the consumer? The answer is, of course, that they don't benefit anybody but the two wealthy companies positioned on either side of the argument.

Further compounding the problem is that consumers don't only suffer during such battles, when they miss out on programs they enjoy watching, They also suffer once a settlement is finally reached.

That's when the consumer has the dubious privilege of paying more on their cable bill as an outcome of the negotiations.

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Reflections On An Annual Ritual

It's that time of year again when parents all across America are sending their kids off to college for the first time. A post from one of my wife's cousins who is helping her oldest daughter move on to a school in New York City brought me back to Aug. 2007 when I left my oldest son off for his first year of college at Loyola University  in New Orleans.                                            

It was what my wife and I wanted for him, but when it came time for me to say good-bye and head to the airport, I've never had to work so hard to keep from bawling my eyes out. And until that point, it never occurred to me what my beloved parents must have been going through as they helped me moved into my dorm at Boston University nearly 30 years before the arrival of my oldest child at college.

To those of you out there in Cheshire and Wallingford who will be going through those powerful mixed emotions in the coming days and weeks, I wish you peace and comfort.

 And to the newly minted college students, enjoy your time at your school of choice. Hopefully you've chosen well and it will be some of the best four years of your lives.

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Cox Communications Customers Left In Dark Over WPIX Blackout

The dispute between Cablevision Systems Corp. and the Tribune Co. over increased retransmission fees has spilled over to subscribers of at least one other cable system here in Connecticut and possibly others.

When Cablevision blacked out the Tribune Co.’s retransmission feed of WPIX at around noon Friday, it also caused subscribers of Cox Communications’ Meriden system to lose access to the New York City television channel as well. Cox only system in the New Haven area serves customers in Cheshire, Meriden and Southington.

Dana Alexander Nolfe, a spokeswoman for Cox Communications in New England, said the loss of WPIX on the company’s Meriden system was accidental.

“WPIX’s feed into Connecticut is shared with Cablevision, Cox ... and at least one other cable provider,” Nolfe said. “When the blackout of WPIX by Cablevision occurred Friday, it affected not only Cablevision subscribers, but our Meriden subscribers as well. We are working to restore WPIX to our Meriden customers and apologize for the inconvenience.”

Estimates as to when WPIX might be restored to those Cox customers were not immediately available.
Subscribers to Cox’s two other Connecticut cable systems in Enfield and Manchester were not affected by the blackout, she said.

Susan Israel is a Cox Communications subscriber who lives in the Meriden service area and spent much of Friday getting frustrated by her cable company’s response to the problem.

“I turned on WPIX Friday and got The Style Network,” Israel said in Twitter posts, referring to programming that Cablevision was airing in place of shows carried by WPIX.

“I am furious; I need my New York City news fix," she said. "I called Cox and they said they didn’t know anything about it.”

Clayton Collier said that it is wrong for Cablevision to hold its subscribers hostage in its dispute with Tribune.

"You can't black out your customers just because you're having trouble negotiating," said Collier, who lives on Long Island and is a Cablevision subscriber. "Cablevision is screwing its customers over."

Cablevision also blacked out two other Tribune Co. broadcast properties, Hartford-based WCCT and WPHL in Philadelphia, which is carried by some Cablevision systems in parts of New Jersey.

Cablevision released the following statement about its decision to black out WPIX from its systems.

“Tribune is in bankruptcy and the greed of their new hedge fund owners caused this blackout," the company said. "It is wrong for Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and other hedge funds to demand tens of millions of dollars in new fees from Cablevision customers to solve Tribune’s financial problems. In the face of difficult economy, Cablevision has held the line on rates, with no increase since late 2010 – unique in the industry.  Tribune and its hedge fund owners should work with us to reach an agreement.”

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