Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Screw You Too, Charter: UPDATED

Writer's Note: I'm pissy, I'm venting, and I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But I have something to say, and it's my blog... I've had a bad day, I'm mad, and I just want to get it all out there. I may even swear. Proceed accordingly.

I've never really had a beef with my cable company, Charter Communications. The signal is reliable, the HD channels look great, the On-Demand choices are good, and I don't feel we're being robbed price-wise. The DVR device could be a little easier to use, but it gets the job done, so I can't complain. Until today.

The bastards decided that they didn't want to air the Twins at Yankees game on Tuesday. And they may not feel like airing up to 45 other games either. Oh, and Dish Network, Mediacomm, and Cable One are bastards too.

Now, I did have a little heads up on the situation. Early Tuesday afternoon, I saw a link on Facebook to this article by 1500 ESPN. So I figured I'd better make a plan. I'm ok with listening to games on the radio, especially if I'm doing stuff outside. But since I'm crocheting a baby blanket that needs to get done soon (and I really should be working on it right now, but I need to calm down first -- angry crocheting is sloppy crocheting), I'd have preferred to watch it on TV. So I looked at Charter's website to verify. This is what I saw:

Okey dokey, I'm set, right? WRONG.

They did air the Twins Live program, so I happily watched that as I cooked supper (Asian beef noodle, by the way). Then right at 6:00 pm, my TV started showing poker. Friggen' poker?!

So, I did what I always do when I'm confused or disdained -- I went to Twitter.
I heard from a number of my Twitter friends who commiserated and comforted. I also heard from fans suffering the same fate. Oh, and notice how the Charter profile "is not staffed; however, of the Umatter2Charter Team Members will reply"? And, sure enough, I did get a reply. I suspect that a "Umatter2Charter Team Member" is a bot. (UPDATE: I stand corrected. In the comments section, there is a reply from Umatter2Charter that insists they are not bots. They're really just overworked non-bot humans. Good to know.) Here's their reply:

(I figure it's a bot, since I didn't get the reply from @CharterJeremy; I got it from @CharterGeorge)

I answered back with a snotty comment that maybe they should say something on their effing website about the game not airing. Five minutes worth of clicking around their site revealed nothing about it. I felt it was a little like false advertising. The Fox Sports North Twins page doesn't say anything about it either.

And to take it a step further, someone helpfully informed me that the game was on MLB Network, but when I finally tuned in to that, I saw the Boston at Cleveland game. To be fair, I chose to do some of the listen-to-the-radio-while-I-do-stuff-outside stuff for a while, so it may have been on and they switched it. However, I doubt it -- MLB Network generally airs entire games. It really smells like Charter wanted to make sure the game was blacked out by every means possible.

So, clearly, this is about money. I mean, when it comes to broadcast rights, what isn't about money? But I don't get why Charter wouldn't want to air every Twins game FSNorth carries. Of course, the details of the dispute aren't being revealed, but I have to assume that FSN wants more dough for those extra 45 games. And I suppose, Charter is playing chicken hoping that the advertisers grumble to FSN about losing some of the audience and consequently relents on the monetary demands.Who knows? As they "work in good faith" to provide a resolutions "that is in the best interest of the customers," who's really getting screwed? The customers are.

So, Charter, Dish Network, Mediacomm, and Cable One, considering that you're already airing 105 games, what's the harm in airing the other 45? I mean, seeing as how mad your customers are tonight, what are you gaining by showing us poker?

Oh, and when I started this rant, the Twins were down 0-4. At that point, I didn't feel so bad about missing the game. Apparently angry blogging is good luck for the Twins. Sucks for me.



I received a bunch of comments from folks who are equally pissy. I also received a comment from Charter. Be sure to read them.

So, our non-bot human Charter friend is trying to be helpful, and I'm sure he and his colleagues have the suckiest job on earth today. But, I'm not sure it was so important to explain that they're not bots, while failing to address the real issues here. Plus, he spelled my name wrong; I hate that.

Obviously, the biggest issue is their customers not seeing the games. Over a hundred other providers in Twins Territory have figured out a way to carry the games. When there only four hold-outs, I gotta think it's think it's the hold-outs' problem.

But the secondary, and also a very important, concern is their blatant lack of communication on the matter. I did finally get a reply from the Umatter2Charter non-bot human guys regarding the snotty comment I made about the schedule showing the game. He said "The guide couldn't be changed in time as negotiations continued today. We'll def let customers know once a decision is made." B. S. First of all, it's a website. You can change a website in about 4 minutes tops, and that includes booting up the computer. Secondly, I don't know, here's a thought: put the current schedule as it stands today on the website and correct it when you do finally come to an agreement!!! I did my due diligence as a customer to try to figure out if I could watch the game, and I was misled. And it's still listing misleading information on future games they won't air.

Additionally, Charter isn't telling customers which games are blocked. My husband stopped by the Charter office to ask about it, and the non-bot human behind the desk had no idea (he also didn't have a satisfactory answer to my husband's question about our not-so-easy-to-use DVR device -- he may as well have been a bot).

Here is a list from Fox Sports North of the games that will be blocked by Charter in April. And yes, these games are listed on the Charter website.

Also, check out The Sports Daddy's take on this. He did a much better job explaining the whole frustrating mess than I did. In spite of that, he did link back to my blog, which was great (thanks!) and generated a lot of traffic. Plus, he spelled my name right.

I'm done ranting about this for awhile. Now on to that crocheting.


Rachel said...

My parents and sister had the same problem because they are Dish Network customers. My sister said Dish didn't cut the Twins feed until 45 minutes after the game started. What a bunch of crap.

JimCrikket said...

You're right about it all being about money. The cable companies, FSN and the Twins themselves are all culpable for a share of the whole blackout issue.

Frankly none of them give a rat's ass about their customers.

jb_iowa said...

I have Dish and we were able to see the first part of the game. I probably could have seen the end of the game if I had been smart enough to turn off the radio and the KC-Sox game -- especially since the Twins game ran over.

I spent some time on live chat with Dish customer service -- and followed up with a scathing e-mail. Their story on live chat was that "the game was blacked out and there was nothing that Dish could do about it". I know there was nothing that the reps could do about it but Dish could have paid the ransom to FSN and boom there it would have been on my screen. I appreciate Dish Network's efforts to keep their costs down (especially compared to DirectTV) but then DON'T LIE TO ME. Admit that you were too cheap to pay off FSN. AND, tell me how many more games I can expect to be blacked out so that I can make an intelligent decision on whether to switch providers.

And one more thing, why is it that the 180 (more or less) channels that I never watch never seem to be blacked out. Just give me the (approximately) 20 that I want -- they can keep all the rest.

Rant over.

Umatter2Charter said...

Hello Kristen,

My name is Eric Ketzer, and I am the Social Media Manager at Charter. I wanted to take a moment to assure you that we are not bots on Twitter. As you are probably aware, Twitter was a buzz last night. We did the best we could to personalize the responses, but to keep up we had to resort to a standard response. I have coached my team to use a response from @Charter should something like this happen in the future. I am very hopeful that we will be able to get this resolved soon.

If you ever need anything, please feel free to @Charter so we can assist.

Eric Ketzer
Social Media Communications Manager

JB_Iowa said...

To follow up on my earlier rant, I received the following e-mail back from Dish: "Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Dish apologizes for not meeting your expectations and for any inconvenience. Please be advised that Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees games are blocked because Fox is asking Dish Network to pay for other games which is not a priority to Twins fans." So what do we think? Is Fox trying to hold Dish hostage over non-Twins games? Or is Dish stupid enough to think that if it isn't Twins vs. Yankees, it isn't important. After all, who cares about games with the Rays, Oakland and Cleveland (in April alone)? (Oh, and wouldn't you think they would try to use proper grammar in a bulk e-mail)?

givejonadollar said...

I used to be a retailer for Dish and Direct so I feel your pain. But, alas, cable is not much better.

Oh well. Maybe the internet video revolution will continue on. :)

Michelle said...

Sorry but if Hickory Tech and Bevcomm which are much smaller companies can carry the games, there is no reason Charter can't pony up the money. The Charter techs are idiots, if I can figure out in 10 seconds how to program the remote for the DVR the tech who's getting paid should be able to or he shouldn't be installing equipment. I wonder what Charter would do if we all started to cancel.

Umatter2Charter said...

Hello again, we just received some really good news, so I wanted to share it with you:

Charter has reached an agreement-in-principle with Fox Sports North (FSN) involving carriage of 44 additional Minnesota Twins games this season, in addition to the 105 games already carried on Charter. We are pleased to have reached this arrangement with FSN in time for carriage of today’s Twins-Yankees game.

If you have any questions, please feel free to hit us up on Twitter. have a great day and enjoy the games.

Eric Ketzer
Social Media Communications Manager