Pay TV Industry Rallies to Help Harvey Victims

Operators, programmers donate time, money to help flooding victims

The pay TV industry rallied in the aftermath of the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey in several communities in Texas and Louisiana, donating time and money to help victims of the massive flooding and devastation in those states.

At last count, cable operators, telcos and programmers, raised several million dollars to help the relief efforts, including $10 million from Verizon Communications.

Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 in Southern Texas, a Category 4 storm with winds as high as 130 miles per hour dumping more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, Texas and several other communities in the state. The storm, downgraded to Tropical Storm status by Aug. 26, has moved into Louisiana and is considerably less powerful, with winds gusting at about 45 mph. At last count, the storm has claimed at least 31 lives and left thousands homeless. The damage is expected to be in the many billions of dollars. AccuWeather on Thursday estimated it could be the most damaging natural disaster in U.S. history at $190 billion.

Cable operators, telcos, networks and entertainment icons alike have donated time and money to help in the recovery efforts. According to reports, entertainment and sports personalities have also pitched in, with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt raising more than $10 million for recovery efforts. TV and movie personalities like Ellen Degeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, comedian Kevin Hart, Kim Kardashian, Houston native Beyoncé and others have personally donated funds to help victims.

Here’s a brief rundown of the support offered by the pay TV industry:

Verizon:$10 million to help in relief efforts. The telco is also relieving postpaid customers of data, talk and text charges and giving prepaid customers an extra 3 GB to be used for data, talk and text from Aug. 26 through Sept. 15.  Verizon also is deploying mobule equipment, incliding Cells on Wheels and Cells on Light Trucks to supplement service in areas of South Texas that need extra network capacity. The company also is working closely wth federal and local government agencies to assist first responders with communications services; is staffing shelters with Verizon employees in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to assist first responders and displaced residents with mobile charging, internet access and other communications needs. Along with its subsidiary Oath, Verizon also is providing financial support to residents of Houston and South Texas with dollar-for-dollar matches of employees’ contributions to select relief-focused organizations. Oath also will match consumers’ contributions to select relief-focused organizations when they donate after visiting one of Oath’s web properties.

Comcast/NBCUniversal:Donating more the $1 million in cash and in-kind services to support relief efforts in the Houston area. It has also opened up 53,000 Xfinity WiFi hotspots in the Houston area. Under the current plan, non-Comcast customers can access those access points for free through Friday, Sept. 8. Comcast has entered the next phase of the recovery effort, assessing its facilities, services and network so Comcast can “aggressively implement its recovery plan throughout the region.” The company is working diligently to restore service as quickly and as safely as possible.

At NBCUniversal, owned NBC and Telemundo TV stations have set up local phone banks and are hosting telethons to raise awareness on how communities can help. Also, numerous NBCUniversal talent have been getting behind the cause both on-air and on social media to spread the word on how people can support Houston. The $1 million commitment includes a cash contribution of $500,000 that will be shared between Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the American Red Cross.  Additionally, the company will donate advertising time on its cable systems to these organizations to run public service announcements to help educate concerned citizens about how they can assist with flood relief efforts.

AT&T: Donated $350,000 to help aid relief efforts; deployed drones to check cell towers and assess damage; deployed portable cell sites and charging stations in South Texas

Dish Network: Has implemented standard procedures to assist in natural disasters for its customers; including pausing service, waiving installation fees when customers are ready to resume service. Dish Cares, the company's citizenship program, partners with Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) and, together, the groups have deployed the Dish Cares/ITDRC mobile command center that is staffed to serve as a coordination hub for first responders in disaster situations. The command center has staged near Rockport, Texas and will coordinate and install satellite broadband and television services for disaster relief sites, shelters and others.

Altice USA: Made a $50,000 donation to the Red Cross of Texas; is crediting the accounts of customers who lost service due to flooding dating back to Aug. 25; established an Employee Disaster relief Fund, Altice employees from around the country are traveling to the affected areas to assist in the relief efforts. 

Cable One:$50,000 donation for relief efforts. Funds will be distributed to regional non-profit agencies, including the Salvation Army. The cable company said it's also waived billing for its Texas Coast customers as well as impacted customers in parts of South Texas for the duration of the storm until services are restored, and waiving fees for equipment damaged during the hurricane.

Cox Enterprises:$100,000 grant from the James M. Cox Foundation to the American Red Cross.

T-Mobile:Offering free data to Harvey-affected subscribers; set up a “text to give” number for donations for the relief effort.

Disney and KTRK-Houston: The entertainment giant and its owned and operated Houston ABC station donated $1 million to Harvey relief and continues to raise money for relief efforts through local affiliates Good Morning America and ABC, Freeform, Radio Disney and across all Disney/ABC Television Group social platforms, there will be a call-to-action to donate to the American Red Cross, with those dollars going to benefit those most impacted.

(Photo via theNational Guard’s flickr. Image uploaded on Aug. 27, 2017 and used per aCreative Commons 2.0 license. The image was cropped to fit the 4x3 aspect ratio.)