Tell Us What You Really Think


I was a little surprised when I took our own online poll, which asks visitors what the No. 1 issue facing the cable industry is today.

If you haven't, you can still cast your vote by visiting to see how your answers stack up against those of your peers. There are four choices: Competition from direct-broadcast satellite, programming costs, consolidation and reregulation.

Like most people, I like to take online polls, and love the instant gratification of seeing how my answers compare to those of other folks. I can usually tell exactly how the vote will swing, like in the poll I took the other day, which asked people what they feared most: SARS, a terrorist attack or more bad economic news. That was easy — the economy was the answer, by a whopping 80%.

But I didn't call my own online poll by a longshot. Trying to think like a level-headed cable operator, which I am not, I voted for competition from DBS. But only 23% of our visitors chose that answer. Instead, an impressive 50% chose programming costs as the No. 1 issue facing cable. Only 20% said consolidation and a mere 7% cited re-regulation.

To make life even more interesting, we are running that same poll for Broadcasting & Cable, sister publication of Multichannel News, to see how the broader television audience would answer the same question — with the same four options.

There, I was not surprised. B&C
respondents said that competition from DBS was the biggest issue facing cable, with 40% of visitors choosing that answer — quite a flip from the way the MCN
respondents answered that question. Some 33% answered programming costs.

But the B&C
respondents' answers were almost identical, as they ranked consolidation and reregulation as lesser issues — 22% and 5%, respectively.

So what, if anything, does a poll of this sort mean? It means, mostly, that people tend to respond rather emotionally, grabbing at the first answer that suits their present mood.

In retrospect, I chose competition from DBS because on that rainy Memorial Day weekend when my digital service died, I was thinking of my other options when I took our poll.

And I would say that the visitors to — I would gather they were largely cable operators — are still seething over ESPN's 20% rate hike and still very much have sports tiers on their minds.

The answers from the respondents to the B&C
poll are harder to figure out because the audience is more diverse: a mix of broadcasters and cable companies. But I have a theory: At this writing, the Federal Communications Commission is on the eve of relaxing its cross-ownership rules, the word DBS conjures up images of Rupert Murdoch who just acquired DirecTV.

And despite what Murdoch has said about not wanting to gobble up more television stations, the broadcasters seem to be more fearful of what he might do with DirecTV than the cable operators are right now.

Clearly, cable operators have a far superior economic model than broadcasters and their one revenue stream, ad sales. And cable operators, who once feared Murdoch would get a hold of DirecTV Inc., seem more confident, now that they have launched a menu of digital products that are creating even more revenue streams.

So let us know what you're thinking. Respond to this poll, and to more coming down the pike.