Saturday, October 12, 2019

Xfinity's Folly or How to Make TCM Fans Very Angry

On those rare occasions that I might be inclined to complain about my cable provider, I remind myself that it could be much worse. This latest reminder has come courtesy of Xfinity (Comcast's cable television and internet subsidiary). The past few days fans of Turner Classic Movies have switched to their favourite channel only to see the following message on screen: "This requires a subscription. To watch this program, you'll need to subscribe to this channel... " It seems that Xfinity has moved TCM to their "Sports Entertainment Package," which will require TCM fans to pay more for the channel.

To say that Turner Classic Movie fans are not happy with Xfinity is an understatement. Every single TCM fan I know who is an Xfinity customer has complained. Some are unhappy with having to pay substantially more for their favourite channel. Others are unhappy with having to pay substantially more for their favourite channel while getting a bunch of sports channels that they will never watch. Not a one of them is happy about the change.

In their statement regarding why they moved TCM to their expensive "Sports Entertainment Package," Xfinity said, "Viewership of TCM is low, as over 90% of our customers watch less than two movies per month. Given this and contractual limitations on offering TCM a la carte, we decided to move TCM to the Sports Entertainment Package, which will help us manage programming costs that are passed on to our customers while continuing to make the channel available to those who want to watch it." To be quite frank (and quoting Col. Potter from M*A*S*H), I think this is a load of horse hockey.

First, I find Xfinity's claim that "over 90% of our customers watch less than two movies per month..." to be significant. I mean, they did not say "over 90% of our customers never watch TCM." It seems to me that if the average Xfinity viewer even watches one movie on TCM each month, then it may well be doing better than many cable channels. Indeed, according to Nielsen back in 2014, on average American homes receive 189.1 cable channels but only watch 17.5 of those channels. That means that there are a large number of viewers with cable channels that they never watch. I know this is true of myself. The vast majority of channels on my cable system's line-up I simply don't watch at all, not even one programme.

Second, I have to refute the idea that "viewership of TCM is low." Okay, I think every TCM fan realises that the channel does not have the viewership of such channels as AMC, TNT, or USA, but then that is true of the vast majority of cable channels. That it does have a good sized viewership is borne out by the fact that TCM is not simply a cable channel, but a brand. The TCM Shop sells a large number of TCM branded merchandise, from t-shirts to coffee mugs. One doesn't see that with the vast majority of cable channels. What is more, every year the TCM Classic Movie Festival has massive attendance. The Eighth Annual TCM Classic Film Festival had around 28,000 attendees. When one keeps in mind that most TCM fans don't get to attend the festival because of finances or work schedules, that gives him or her an idea of just how many viewers TCM may well have, not to mention how loyal TCM's viewers are to the brand.

Third, because of the above I have to think Xfinity moved TCM to the "Sports Entertainment Package" for reasons other than allegedly low viewership. To wit, I have to suspect that some of the channels Xfinity has on its Limited Basic and Economy Packages are far less popular than TCM. Indeed, some of the channels they have on those packages I have never even heard of.  While I cannot claim complete and total knowledge of every cable channel out there, I like to think I am fairly knowledgeable of such matters. If I haven't heard of a cable channel, I am thinking that it simply isn't very popular. Given that everyone, even people who never watch it, know about TCM, I would have to think it is very popular.

Ultimately, I think Comcast realised that TCM is very popular and that its fans are extremely loyal to the channel. To this end they concocted what is nothing more or less than a "money grab." That is, they are counting on TCM fans paying more for a package filled with sports channels that they will never watch simply to continue watching Turner Classic Movies. Here I have to state that I also think that they have made a drastic miscalculation in doing so.

Quite simply, every single one of my friends who are Xfinity customers are so unhappy that, instead of subscribing to that "Sports Entertainment Package," they are talking about switching cable providers entirely. What is more, I think Xfinity should have expected this. I seriously doubt there is any cable channel with fans more loyal than TCM fans. In fact, we are so loyal that the availability of TCM determines which cable providers we subscribe to and even which hotels in which we stay when travelling. When a cable provider does not have Turner Classic Movies or moves it to a package that makes it prohibitively expensive, we simply find another cable provider. It is not like there aren't multiple choices these days. Indeed, where I live we can choose from two cable providers, the two direct broadcast satellite service providers (DirecTV and Dish Network), and any number of streaming services. Keep in mind I live in a small town. Larger cities might well have even more choices. In the end, I think Xfinity is going to see TCM fans dropping their service for something else. And given just how many TCM fans are out there, they might well pay dearly for their hubris.


J-Dub said...

Yet another nail in the coffin for my relationship with Comcast. The only reason I have cable is it is the best means for a lot of live sports. The streaming services aren't where they need to be yet, but this is giving me cause to seriously re-evaluate.

First of all, these Xfinity assholes tried to raise my bill by $60 a few months back. After I called and complained, they set me up with a new plan which gave me all the stuff I had for the same price. Then I started noticing I was losing channels, most of which I didn't care about, but taking TCM away from me is a MAJOR issue.

Here's the best part. I'm huge sports fan and even I couldn't care less about the sports channels they want me to subscribe to keep TCM, otherwise I'd ALREADY HAVE THEM!!!

KC said...

It does seem like they're just getting greedy with an especially loyal fan base. If they wanted more viewers for a supposedly lower performing channel (and yes, because of that fan base you know it is probably doing better than they claim, compared to other lower performing channels), they could put it in a lower tier and build up interest. They want to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. Same old song!

rcocean said...

Yeah, I thought this done to me personally. Glad to know others are suffering. Ha. Just joking. I'm outta comcast. This was the last straw. They're a greedy, quasi-monopoly that makes the old Telephone look good. The vast majority of channels are not watched by anyone and put on complete crap. When's the last time the History Channel, actually had any "History"? Basically, despite have "200 Channels" we were down to TCM, CSPAN, my wife's channels, and the occasional sport event. Who needs Comcast.

The whole thing is a complete rip off. We should have ala carte pricing and be able to pick and choose our channels. But Comcast has bribed enough congressmen, so that won't happen.

Unknown said...

I'd pay TCM directly if there was a way to access it directly and bypass Xfinity. I will NEVER pay Xfinity another PENNY for a bunch of sports channels I'll never watch. Very annoyed.