TV Tussle Goes Down to the Wire

As early as tomorrow, Nov. 1, the lights could go out on FOX’s cable networks in DirecTV subscribers’ homes. All over a little contract tussle.

DirecTV isn’t budging on its stance to not meet FOX’s supposed demands for a 40 percent rate increase. FOX and parent company News Corporation claim to be asking for their standard renewal rate. Both companies stand for lose big bucks if the News Corp. networks are dropped from DirecTV airwaves. Read more about the specifics of the dispute here.

Disagreements over contract terms are nothing new in the television industry. With social media giving customers even more avenues to voice their opinions and displeasure, this standoff could get ugly.

What I find most interesting are the spin campaigns the respective companies are running.

Looking to sway public opinion in their favor, FOX is playing up the angle that DirecTV is denying viewers quality programming from networks like FSN, FX and the National Geographic Channel. FOX and News Corp. have launched KeepMyNets.com, a site that offers facts on the dispute, links to social media pages and even a link to alternate cable/satellite providers. Ouch.

“Despite FOX Networks’ offer of an extension during our ongoing negotiations, DirecTV said ‘NO’ and launched an attack campaign before we had a chance to respond,” reads the What’s Happening tab on the KeepMyNets.com. FOX has taken the fight to airwaves, running spots about the upcoming blackout.

To counter FOX’s efforts, DirecTV has created OurPromiseToYou.com. On the site, the satellite provider is very vocal and forthcoming about their position in the negotiations: They will not agree to FOX’s supposed request for a 40 percent price hike for their customers.

Visitors to the site are greeted with a brief message from DirecTV CEO Mike White. White lets customers know their local FOX stations and Fox News will not be affected by the contract dispute and thanks them for their patience. Additionally, DirecTV touts their success rate of 99.96 percent rate when avoiding service interruptions.

Between Facebook, Twitter and message boards, gauging the opinion of the customer has never been easier. It’s a high stakes game of chicken with customers, their wallets (for DirecTV) and their eyeballs (for FOX and their advertisers) caught in the middle.

Obviously, we’ll know more about this standoff tomorrow. But if the outage goes forwar, one thing is for sure: DirecTV and FOX are going to be very popular on social media and interwebs tomorrow, and in this case, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

*UPDATE: Crisis averted! DirecTV and FOX reached an agreement last night, six hours before the networks were scheduled to go off the air. Read more on the deal here.

by Daniel Sweeney | posted | in Advertising & Marketing, News
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