A wall of multi-colored sticky notesWhat a day! I’ve got very serious storm drain work going on outside my normally peaceful office, and from the beeping it sounds like an excavator is running slow, backward circles around the project. With my kid off at high school, I keep remembering the photo of that poor Florida dad wearing a Trump 2020 shirt while asking in vain about his daughter. I can’t find anything exciting or positive enough to overcome all that, so you’re getting a second helping of notes this week.

John Eggerton, the hardest working man in Washington, noted that the National Association of Broadcasters would like the FCC to tweak the retransmission consent / must-carry rule, by which unpopular channels can force themselves onto the cable dial while popular ones can hold their signal for ransom. Currently, the default is must-carry; a station that would prefer to negotiate for some cash has to formally notify cable systems and the like. The NAB would prefer to switch that default to retrans, in case one of its member stations fumbles the paperwork (it happens) and could lose out on that sweet, sweet retrans money. Never mind that the unpopular stations are the least likely to have the kind of staff to handle proactive paperwork to request must-carry status.

As mentioned by Jeff Baumgartner, sports-first OTT streamer fuboTV has added a Family Share option. For $6/month, instead of two simultaneous streams, a subscriber can add a third stream to share “with additional family members.” At some level, aren’t we all family? This was just a few days after fuboTV hooked up with a unit of Sears Holdings to offer cash back or rewards or something like that. Because nothing says forward-thinking like a close relationship with Sears.

And the diginet Bounce announced today that it had swung a deal with The Wendy Williams Show to broadcast episodes in prime time the same day that they ran in syndication during the day on local stations. The press release said, “The deal represents the first-ever repurposed programming arrangement done by a new-generation broadcast network, also known as a multicast network.” I see this as another sign that a lot of people don’t have over-the-air TV DVRs, because if they did, why wouldn’t they just record the afternoon show?

Next week, more rest, fewer distractions, less snark. I hope.

CW logoMichael Malone at Broadcasting & Cable wrote this afternoon that the CW will expand its programming to six nights a week including Sunday evenings. At 12 hours a week, it’s still not a full-fledged network, but at least we’ll get a couple more hours of fresh programming broadcast over the air.

YouTube TV looks a lot more attractive to me now that it has added the Turner networks, as reported by FierceCable’s Ben Munson. Beginning March 13, the price will rise from $35/month to $40, but before then subscribers can lock in that $35 rate. There are also reports that MLB Network will become available. Now if it can add Comedy Central, then I might think about switching.

Finally, Alan Wolk at Decider wrote yesterday that over-the-top services such as Sling and YouTube TV, though not exactly “cord-cutting” according to his strict definition, are “poised to take over the world.” Jeff Baumgartner of Multichannel News had estimates of all the OTT providers, with Sling leading at 2.3 million subscribers and DirecTV Now second at 1.2 million. However, Netflix has about 55 million subscribers in the US alone, so we might need to wait a while before OTT completes that world takeover.

Scissors cutting a cable in front of a video screen

© paulmhill / Depositphotos

Huffington Post’s Todd Van Luling ran an article yesterday about the 5 Cable-Cutting Problems You Probably Didn’t Think About. They’re worth considering, though most of those problems could have been easily prevented. Go ahead and read that article first, then come back for the rebuttal.

1. The new live services have buffering issues. Yes, DirecTV Now and Hulu have had well-publicized problems, but Sling with its earlier launch seems to have figured that one out after its first couple of months.

2. It’s impossible to get every channel you had before. Most of the comments were about trouble with local channels because of bad over-the-air TV reception. The lesson here is not to return to cable, it’s to upgrade your OTA reception.

3. Streaming live sports can be particularly tricky. (See also #1.) The three comments were, in essence: My husband needs the local channels, We have (an OTA) antenna but it’s flaky, and We were watching the Super Bowl on Hulu when it puked. In other words, it’s another problem that would be solved mainly with a good OTA antenna.

4. Internet problems can mess with streaming. This is the most important issue of the five. If you cut the cord and want to stream over-the-top services, you need reliable internet service with decent bandwidth. You’re stuck if your internet provider fails, but that’s also true for cable viewers when their provider has problems.

5. You might have to fight your cable company. Well, yes, some cable companies are notoriously stubborn about cancelling service. Yet every month thousands of subscribers manage to complete the process.

Also, content libraries shift. What you want next month may have left Netflix, but if your heart is set on a given movie or show, buying or renting it online is still cheaper than a big cable bundle. And I think that points to another mindshift that’s helpful to a cable-cutter – even when that one program isn’t available, there’s always something else that is.

To summarize my perspective, if you want to drop pay-TV, the first order of business is to get a great OTA antenna positioned for maximum reliability and channel selection. Second is to line up really good broadband internet access. Then if you want some of those old channels, my current recommendation is Sling, which has the best price and few issues. That might be different a year from now as lineups shift and the other OTT services mature. The video disruption experiment continues.

Locast.orgs TV gridLocast.org, the “non-profit digital translator service” that streams 15 New York City over-the-air TV stations, has added a standard programming grid to the main page of its web site. And not to bury the lede, almost a month after its launch, Locast has continued to operate apparently without lawsuits.

In the site’s News section, it has added a story about implementing its “public service mission”. “As part of that effort, Locast.org is including residents of the New York City Public Housing Authority system and other similar institutions without our sphere of outreach and engagement in New York City.”

The story concludes with a quote from Habiba Alcindor, daughter of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a board member of Sports Fan Coalition NY. “I believe every sports fan, casual viewer and all New Yorkers in between should have access to local broadcasting,” she said. “… I truly believe in the public interest mission of ensuring universal access to local broadcast stations for little to no cost.”

Locast is only available to devices that can prove that they’re in NYC, if you know what I mean. The grid is a very nice improvement. Now if they could add a cloud DVR, it would be just like Nimble TV, except cheaper.

Logo for Walter PresentsWalter Iuzzolino, who once left his job so he could watch television full time, recently said, “I think some TV channels will literally become joint ventures with the giant streamers, and Netflix will buy channels.” The occasion was the release of the annual Nostradamus Report (pdf), which was summarized yesterday by Jenny Priestley at TV Technology.

The report, published by the Göteburg Film Festival, “aims to sketch out the future of the screen industries 3–5 years from now” by interviewing several industry experts. One of them is Iuzzolino, who now curates Walter Presents, a service offering dramas from around the world.

Comparing the online world with terrestrial, linear TV, Iuzzolino said, “We are in the middle of a terrible war, and then there will be a marriage. In five years I genuinely think that the integration of streaming and TV will have been, if not completed, then 75 % advanced. There’s probably a period of adjustment of the next 5–7 years where that terrestrial audience declines and disappears.”

Picking on Netflix, possibly as an example, he said the company was great at expanding its subscriber base but still could use a way “to shape the national conversation. [For that] you [still] need the billboard, a national terrestrial channel, which on a Wednesday night shows you this, on a Thursday night shows you that.” There’s so much more from Iuzzolino and others, so you really ought to go read the PDF.

Personally, I think the natural vehicle for something just like this is Hulu. It’s already mostly owned by three channels, soon to be two if Fox sells its stake to Disney. It’s already offering a live package to go along with its streaming TV library. Although its short-term losses appear to be growing rapidly, it’s got enough name recognition and momentum to be a serious contender. I hope its owners continue to see free TV as a complementary, as well as complimentary, service.