Sure enough CBS blacked out Dish customers Monday night. Dish responded with a press release that talked about over-the-air antennas. “In recent weeks, thousands of eligible DISH customers in CBS markets have made the switch to OTA … Customers with qualifying equipment, programming, and location can choose to receive local channels free over the air and save $10 per month on their bill.” And here’s another reason, if true, for me to dislike CBS’s tactics: “In addition to asking for significant price increases for local channels, CBS is attempting to ‘force bundle’ unrelated and low-performing cable channels (CBS Sports Network, Pop and Smithsonian Channel) at a premium.” I have always thought that retrans talks for OTA stations, which are designed to serve the public airwaves, needs to be separate from pay-TV channels.
Last week, I wrote that BTV Phoenix was soliciting feedback for dropping its Katz diginets (Bounce, Escape, and Grit). It’s not asking for feedback any more. Those channels had been grayed out, with an invitation for viewers to profess their enthusiasm for them, but now they’re simply not present, just as happened with those networks on BTV Bay Area. Jeff Baumgartner at Multichannel News got a response from Didja, the BTVs’ parent, that it believed “the situation is temporary, and remains hopeful that they will be restored to its lineups.”
And on Tuesday, Dec. 5, Public Knowledge will host Net Neutrality & Competition: The Final Days of Internet Freedom at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. With the FCC likely to strike down Net Neutrality protections, AT&T looking to merge with Time Warner, and Sinclair trying to gobble up the Tribune stations, “Public Knowledge is coming to California to discuss these important political shifts with engaged individuals, and to build new connections with individuals who want to learn more about standing up for an open internet.” Sound like fun, in a depressing kind of way.
Seriously long-term readers of this blog might remember Mill Creek Entertainment. I mentioned these folks way back in 2010 as a source of classic public domain movies after White Springs TV went off the air. At the time, the Internet Archive’s movie collection was still skimpy, and broadband internet was less common, so a lot more people could watch a Mill Creek DVD than download a movie.
A few months ago, Mill Creek flipped that paradigm on its head by releasing a series of movie packs on its Watch Mill Creek online platform. For less than $5, about a quarter of the price of the DVD equivalent, you can buy 50 online movies in one of several flavors: Crime Wave, Cowboy Legends, Icons of Comedy, Mad Scientist Theater (pictured), and many more. Once purchased, that owned content is available through a Roku app and most web browsers to watch as often as you want.
The online movie packs don’t match up with any particular old Mill Creek DVD collection, but the titles are very familiar. Most of these are available at the Internet Archive, but Mill Creek’s better user interface might be worth a few dollars for the convenience of calling up one of your favorites on demand. And their email specials, such as this Mad Scientist pack for a dollar at Halloween or a special free Thanksgiving sampler, are another reason to sign up.
There’s also a smattering of non-public domain available for purchase, such as It’s Ernest (the Jim Varney TV show), Archie’s Weird Mysteries, and Liberty’s Kids, but when it comes to Mill Creek, I’m looking for the quantity entertainment of 50-movie packs. These flicks might not be worth much, but they might be worth their asking price and even a little more.
As I was watching the Broncos lose at home again yesterday afternoon, there was an occasional crawl at the top of the screen telling the world that Dish customers should call Dish and complain that they might lose CBS. Or something like that – the game was hard to watch. I rolled my eyes inwardly and thought, here we go again.
The first CBS-Dish fight from over 10 years ago was the impetus for me to install a good Yagi-style over-the-air antenna on the roof. Not only did that let me bypass that dispute, it opened up the world of digital subchannels. I’ve since upgraded to a less pointy version with even better reception, but that’s only part of the reason I just don’t care this time.
When Dish sent out its nigh-annual rate increase around the beginning of this year, for the first time it broke out Broadcast TV as its own $10 charge. “Cool!” I thought, and called in to get the satellite-delivered locals turned off. That wasn’t how it worked; with my typical package of channels, that separate broadcast component was still mandatory.
Which was why I was surprised to get a postcard from Dish a couple of months ago offering to save me that $10/month if I picked up locals via an OTA antenna. They even offered to send out an installer. I called again, and this time the satellite-delivered locals went away and $10 stayed in my pocket. I no longer have PrimeTime Anytime, and my Hopper doesn’t record OTA all that well, but I’ve got a Tablo in place for my OTA DVR. I’m saving money and getting the pleasure of thumbing my nose at CBS’s tactics.
That’s the part that bugs me most. CBS already has enormous leverage in retransmission consent talks, and for the network to bug all viewers just to reach some Dish customers to increase that leverage, I think that’s a jerk move. As long as its stations continue to have an obligation to freely serve the public airwaves, then that’s how I’ll watch my CBS.
There’s a good amount of film noir in the Internet Archive Top 100, but I think this is the only film noir parody. The story is told in flashback as Bob Hope, as a baby photographer, relates how he was caught up in a world of mistaken identity and subterfuge. Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney provide the humorous menace, and with Dorothy Lamour as the love interest, you might be able to guess who appears in a cameo.
The IMDb’s users don’t give comedies the high rankings they give more serious films. Adjusted for that, plus Leonard Maltin’s endorsement, it’s enough to keep this fun movie in the top 30.