On Sunday afternoon, I returned home from vacation. I flipped on the television to see what NFL games were on and catch up on some scores while unpacking. When I went to Channel 4, I was greeted with a broadcast of an SMU soccer game.
I had heard that soccer was the sport of the future in America. Had it arrived while I was away?
Not quite. I then said, "Oh, right. Time Warner Cable and WIVB still hadn't agreed on a deal to allow the cable outlet to show the TV channel's programming." A CBS college sports channel was put on WIVB's spot in the meantime.
This was a battle that was taking place before I left. The folks that own WIVB and its sister station wanted money if the two outlets were going to be carried on cable. Time Warner had different ideas.
Such battles have gotten fairly routine over the last few years, but viewers expect a settlement close to the deadline. The only case where a local station didn't make a deal was when the NFL Network was kicked off basic cable and up to a digital tier in order to make room for Sportsnet New York, thus infuriating those who were glued to their sets when the NFL Network broadcast live from the offseason combine in Indianapolis.
Surely, though, a deal would be reached before -- gasp! -- the 4-0 Bills played at Arizona on a Sunday afternoon. Right? Right?
Wrong. I read that Time Warner had handed out rabbit ears to interested customers, thus throwing us back to the 1970's before cable had arrived in Buffalo. As I understand it, the ratings were down quite a bit from the usual near-Super Bowl proportions.
This is the type of dispute that angers me the most. Picture a room with a table in the middle, with representatives of two sides on, well, two sides. There's a big pile of money in the middle, and the referee says those two sides have to figure out a way to split it up. Otherwise, he'll start taking portions away. Tick, tick, tick.
You always think that they'll figure out a way to divide the money, but once in a while they don't. Remember how the NHL missed an entire season that way?
The Bills' game wasn't too exciting, and the team is coming up on a bye week, so that takes a little of the pressure off -- at least from a sports fan's perspective. But the talks drag on, and both sides have been blanketing the media with attempted explanations of their positions -- convincing no one that they both aren't bums. In the meantime, I'm probably not the only one who has flipped to the six o'clock news or David Letterman or The Price is Right or CSI: Clarence (just kidding about that last one, I think) only to see CBS' College Sports channel.
And as each hour goes by, more money disappears into the mist -- money that according to the news reports has been getting harder and harder to obtain these days. Something about an economic crisis.
Good move, guys.