EDITORIAL: Cable Wars

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There's not much of a direct marketing angle to last week's Disney-Time Warner cable battle, when Time Warner yanked ABC off the air in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and several other cities, but it certainly was enough to rile many an editorial writer (yes, I missed the first night of celebrity "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire").


You can bet, however, that Time Warner will turn to direct mail -- probably as inserts in its monthly statements -- to continue its propaganda that the entire fault fell on Disney's shoulders. If Time Warner doesn't crank up its PR machine soon, the fallout will be seen in lost customers who have been held hostage for too long by a monopoly and who will search for alternatives -- whether it's satellite dishes that Disney will pay for entirely or rival cable operators (RCN, which offers telephone service, a high-speed Internet connection and cable to 70,000 customers in some parts of Manhattan).


Broadband and the still-emerging interactive side of television may be the true reasons for this battle, though, as cable companies work to offer their digital services, such as buying items directly from those commercials during "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Disney wants assurances that Time Warner (through its merger with America Online) won't offer better technology on the channels it owns than on Disney's channels, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission has said the arena is too new for government regulation, but that's no longer a valid argument after last week.
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