Saturday, December 03, 2005

Joe Thornton, NESN and A la Carte Cable

Some people have softened on the Bruins trade of Joe Thornton to San Jose because the three players they traded for Thornton helped beat Ottawa 3-0 the other night. Not me. This remains an awful trade for a number of reasons.

1. Thornton is among the 10 best players in all of hockey and the players they got in return are the complimentary type of players that GM Mike O'Connell should have put on the roster before the season instead of signing aging defensemen like he did. This trade is the equivalent of a hunter dressing a field wound with a sock to stop the bleeding which is fine except the hunter's wound was self inflicted because he doesn't know how to handle a gun. Mike O'Connell doesn't know how to handle a gun but yet the Bruins still allow him to pull the trigger.

2. Ownership allowed this trade (and probably loved it) because Thornton was the highest paid player on the team and now they don't have to pay Thornton's $6.1 million salary. The average Bruin fan thinks of owner Jeremy Jacobs as a cheap prick and this move did little to dispel the adjective or the noun.

3. Thornton took a hometown discount to re-sign with the Bruins and this is how they repay him? Do you think this went unnoticed by the other players and player agents in the NHL?

I was so ticked off at this trade that I called my cable company and told them I wanted to cancel my subscription to NESN (the New England Sports Network) which is jointly owned by the Red Sox (80%) and the Bruins (20%). I have no desire to watch the Bruins anymore and I did not want to contribute to Jacobs pocketbook via my cable bill. (And yes - I would have added NESN back in the spring for the Red Sox - the move was largely symbolic.)

The problem is - to drop NESN from by cable bill I'd have to drop the digital tier of channels from 23 to 78 which means I'd also be losing ESPN and Fox Sports (the Celtics). I was stuck. Money from my cable bill is going to Jacobs' fund to buy ivory backscratchers whether I wanted to contribute or not.

This is exactly why I support a la carte cable. Why should I and other cable subscribers pay for channels that we don't want? Why should concerned parents have children subjected to the raunchiness of MTV just because they also want Nickolodeon? Why should I be forced to support Jeremy Jacobs because I also want ESPN? Why should other people be making my programming choices for me? I don't want CNN Headline News - I want ESPN Headline News but the ESPN channel isn't part of my package but the CNN channel is.
The cable industry opposes a la carte, saying it would ultimately raise subscriber costs and harm diversity on the airwaves. Currently, popular channels subsidize less-popular ones, which the cable industry says provides more options for viewers.
I'm VERY familiar with the technology involved here and I can tell you for a fact that most providers would have no trouble providing a la carte channels and billing for them. The problem comes from companies like Viacom that want to bundle MTV with VH72. And why should I as the consumer be forced to subsidize channels that I'd never watch?

Write your congressman and senator and let them know you support a la carte cable.

Maybe its just me but don't most educators always moan that kids watch too much TV as it is? Isn't the argument against a la carte that it would lower the viewing choices and thus maybe lead to less TV viewing? Aren't the people supporting keeping cable TV as it is thus anti-education? Isn't education the bedrock of our society? Aren't the people against a la carte against what makes this country great? Well they can force NESN on me but I won't sit here idly while they badmouth the United States of America.

Gentlemen - who's with me?

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