Big Ten Network

[Note: I began this post a while ago just about the Big Ten Network. I missed 3 Badger football games this year, and I am going to miss many Badger basketball games, so I am not happy with them. I really didn’t care about the NFL Network until this week, when I found out that the Green Bay/Dallas matchup (you know, perhaps the biggest game of the conference this year), will be on the NFL Network and so I am not going to be able to watch it either. So you can replace the Big Ten with the NFL for the remainder of this post because my argument is the same for both of them.]

Hi, I'm Charter Communications, a racist lackey of imperial ruling circles.
Hi, I'm the Big Ten Conference, a badass commie nigger.
Sounds like the basis of a firm friendship.

The Big Ten Network was set up by the Big Ten Conference in August of last year. This year they began carrying games. The agreement with the Big Ten Conference guarantees that each football team is guaranteed to make at least two appearances on the network per year and one of them will be a conference game, and each Big Ten men's basketball team will make 15-20 appearances on the Big Ten Network each winter. Unfortunately for those of us here who would like to watch these games, Charter Communications (which is the cable provider I currently use) and Time Warner have not reached an agreement with the Big Ten Network on how to offer the network to customers. Both the Big Ten and Charter have spent the last year blaming the other for the fact that fans are unable to watch games, and urging fans to call the other and tell them to cave to their demands. Both are in the wrong.

The Big Ten is not a respectable network. It's a whorehouse network, and it has to take whatever it can get.

They are not looking to give fans what they want. They want to increase revenue and increase profile. If they created the network for the fans, they would let the bigger games stay on the networks with more viewers, and just carry the games that would otherwise be left off TV. Instead they made sure to carry games that we would be upset if we missed in an attempt to get more leverage on the cable companies and get more money. The Big Ten is extorting fans by taking games from networks the fans have access to and putting them on a network that some have to pay extra for and others can’t even purchase if they wanted to. If they actually had the fans best interests in mind, they would lower their demands. But the Big Ten, and for that matter, all Big Ten school football programs, are not in it for the fans, or academics, or anything else they always claim are their top priorities. Their top priority is $.

So, I don't think I'll listen to any protestations of high standards of journalism when you're right down on the streets soliciting audiences like the rest of us. Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right.

Charter claims that they want to put the BTN on a sports tier so only those who want it have to pay for it. This makes no sense when you look at the way Charter sells cable to customers. They have a virtual monopoly on providing cable. They can charge whatever they want and we have to take it if we want cable. They can add the BTN to expanded cable and raise the price and we will take it. If they are really concerned with limiting costs for customers and not forcing them to pay for channels they don’t want, then why even have packages? Put everything on an a la carte system and let customers choose which networks they want. What Charter offers is like a movie theater only selling tickets to No Country for Old Men bundled with tickets for Enchanted. Sure, they may only charge the price of one and a half tickets, so they’ll say they are saving you money. But if no one going to see one movie sees the other then the customer is just getting ripped off.

Right now, you are all mad. You go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell "I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND I'm NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" And this is doing nothing. I want you to protest. I want you to riot. I want you to write to the Big Ten and to Charter and I want you to demand that they take actions to fix things. This is what needs to be done.

My suggestion for Charter: Give us an a la carte subscription service. I have no problem paying to get the BTN because I would watch it. I don’t think I need to pay to get Lifetime, or the Hallmark Channel, or Fox News, or Univision, etc. Sure, some networks that most people don’t want would lose money and fold. That is what is supposed to happen. The first company to offer me this is going to get my business. I can even see providers in the future allowing customers to order single shows. The itunes store has shown that the idea works.

And speaking of selling TV shows over the Internet, my suggestion for the BTN is this: Broadcast your games over the Internet. If the Big Ten just cared about making sure fans could see the game, they could do this for free. But because I know they'd never do that, I'd be willing to pay for a subscription to watch the games online. Major League Baseball has already put in subscription services allowing fans to watch games streamed online. This seems like the ideal solution for the BTN as well. Fans that want the games can get them. Those that don’t want to pay extra don’t have to. And the BTN could cut out Charter and take in the revenue directly.

If the Big Ten Network and Charter continue to hold out, keeping us fans from getting the coverage we want, they will be the ones to ultimately suffer. I could care less if Charter folded up. But the Big Ten Network has potential to help the conference and the fans, so I don't want it to become the first known instance of a conference that was killed because of lousy ratings.



I appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of those who are willing to risk their lives on the behalf of my country. I am just sorry that there is ever a need to do so.


Writers Wrong

No, you are not seeing things. This is a new entry. After 50 days of not writing here, I am starting again. Part of the reason is that I needed time to work on a Halloween-related side project which will be posted online soon. But I will be resuming my posts. And apparently just in time, as there seems to be a shortage of writers willing to work in this country.

I am referring, of course, to the strike by the Writers Guild of America. 12,000 movie and television writers have decided that they no longer wish to receive paychecks for doing their jobs. And so, I would think that Hollywood execs and producers are in the market for writers who are new, cheap, and morally ambiguous. I fit all three.

I am aware that it is now popular to side with the WGA. After all, they have celebrities on their side! And, surprise surprise, numerous writers have backed them. This does not mean that you or I have to support them. I find it extremely distasteful to see all the reports of various TV actors and personalities supporting the WGA strike. This is a classic advertising/propaganda technique. Sure you may like Jay Leno (in which case I should start using smaller words for you), but him giving out donuts does not somehow make the WGA right. These actors that you love so much and want to side with have their own agendas. The sooner the strike is over, the sooner they can go back to work, and get paid. And more than a few of them are also members of the WGA.

Now I would never think of crossing picket lines simply to sell a few scripts I have written (though God by Machine, An American Revolution, and The Legend of Jesus can be ready for production shortly). Instead, I am offering to cross picket lines because I philosophically disagree with the WGA and their demands.

My first problem with the WGA is their demand for residuals from online viewing of their shows. The argument is that writers get paid every time their shows get aired on TV, but not when their shows are shown online, since the networks consider online content "promotional material". My view is different. I think you should get paid fairly for doing a job (writing a show or a movie), and when that job is done, then you need to find another job to do if you want to get paid again. Writers don't have any "rights" to residuals. If you finish something and sell it, then you got paid for your work. Again, if you want to earn more money, then do more work.

If I paint a picture and then sell it to someone, the picture becomes theirs. They can show it to whoever they want, as many times as they want, without having to keep paying me more. If a band performs a song, they should get paid every time they perform the song. If someone records that performance, the recording should become the property of the person who recorded it, and they should be able to play it as they wish without owing the band or the band's producers anything. So in addition to the WGA's demands for online residuals, I also have problems with DRM on music files, the DMCA, copyright law in general, and that statement at the end of baseball games prohibiting me from discussing what I just saw.

If I build a car and sell it to you, you don't have to pay me extra every time you drive it. If I make a shirt and sell it to you, you don't have to pay me extra every time you wear it. The fact that writing is not a physical object should make it worth less, and give it less rights.

And aren't there other people who help make movies and television shows? You know, the last 4 minutes of credits that you don't bother watching. Do they get paid residuals for their work? And though they may be content just doing their jobs and collecting their paychecks, they can't now because the WGA strike has put them all out of jobs.

And that leads me to my second problem with the WGA. There is no reason why producers can't hire non union writers to take over. If some writers won't write without contracts giving them online residuals, then the producers should be free to hire other writers who have lesser demands. It should be up to whoever is buying the script to decide if the first writer is enough of a better writer to be worth the extra demands.

The WGA has every right to demand more money, but they need to realize that there are other people out there who are more than willing to do their jobs for less. And not all of them are illegal Mexican immigrants.

I do not claim to be a good writer, but I am available, I am cheap, and I have no problem screwing over the union. So if anyone out there is looking for for a writer who fits that bill, give me a call. And for everyone else, you can call me a scab if you want, I won't be insulted. A scab is an essential function of the body that allows it to heal wounds.