Time Warner Cable Shows Subscribers How to Cut the Cord

time warner screengrabThe nightmare scenario for cable companies is that customers drop their TV subscriptions and grab their video directly from the Web, turning the cable guys into mere providers of “dumb pipes.”

But here’s a comprehensive set of instructions from a big cable company showing its customers how to do just that. It suggests that they head to the likes of Hulu, Fancast or “any search engine”–weird for it not to call out Google (GOOG), no?–to find their favorite shows.

Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) instructions on “How to Connect Your PC to Your TV” are embedded at the bottom of this post. And here’s a helpful video (sorry for the clumsy screengrab; the video kicks in at about the five-second mark, and there’s some unpleasant coughing around 2:30. Yikes!):

The instructions (Time Warner Cable promised to provide them last week) are part of the company’s game of chicken with News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, which is supposed to come to a head tonight. If you believe the posturing so far, Fox and its associated cable channels (Fox News, FX, etc.) will disappear after midnight tonight because the two sides can’t agree on  new rate.

Alternate view: This thing will go down to the wire and then get resolved, like Time Warner Cable’s back-and-forth with Viacom (VIA) a year ago.

If you want blow-by-blow coverage, let me suggest the Los Angeles Times’s tireless Joe Flint, who is updating each salvo in real time, or very close to it. Or you can just turn on your TV set after midnight tonight and take a look for yourself.

Still, no matter how this resolves, the danger for both sides is that consumers really do take up Time Warner Cable on its offer and start watching Fox stuff on the Web. And to be clear: Fox would prefer that people keep paying for cable TV, because the media company really likes subscription fees from cable TV providers.

Peoplr are already moving to the Web to watch TV, of course, but it’s not mainstream behavior yet. It may be inevitable anyway, but no matter what you hear from both sides of this contract dispute, both sides like this model very much and they’d like to keep it intact as long as possible.

Which is why discussions with would-be “over the top” providers like Apple (AAPL) are supposed to be about adding additional TV programming, not replacing cable.

The safety catch here for the TV business is that consumers who do go to the Web to watch TV, at least through sanctioned means, may be disappointed: They’ll find that programming there doesn’t show up for at least a day, and often longer, after it airs. And some stuff, notably live sports like the NFL playoffs (contrary to the image in the screenshot above) and Fox’s “American Idol” don’t make it on the Web at all.


The Web’s 10 Best Predictions for 2010


When looking ahead at the next year, pundits turn into prognosticators. Bloggers covering all sorts of topics and industries are now giving their predictions for what’s to come in 2010. Conventional wisdom says to go the conservative route with these choices in order to avoid looking foolish when none of your projections pan out. At the same time, there’s a key difference between picking things that are realistically possible and those that are already on the road to happening. I’ve assembled my favorite predictions covering a variety of fields and what’s supposedly in store for the near future:

Recovering Economy: “Starting in Q1, unemployment will slip a half percentage point per quarter…We’re already seeing average work-week hours go up and number of temp workers go up. This is always the precursor to employers ultimately hiring new full-time employees,” says James Altucher at the Wall Street Journal. Once the jobs become available, though, the question could turn to how big a learning curve should be granted to employees adjusting back to the workforce.

Social Media Business: “Facebook will go public…Registrations are still growing nicely but showing signs of deceleration. Friendster’s remains and the slow fade at MySpace are warning signs of what can happen to a social-networking site after it peaks,”says Rick Aristotle Munarrizat at the Motley Fool. Each year, Mark Zuckerberg grows another year removed from his original college-aged audience and from the excitement of having his own venture.

Sarah Palin Politics:The only thing Sarah Palin will be president of in 2012 will be TV ratings. Palin will get a talk show as early as next year. We’re betting a startup like Lifetime or Bravo will make an offer she can’t refuse,” says Daniel Stone at Newsweek. It’ll remind America how likable the lady from Alaska was when she first arrived on the scene in September 2008, and viewers will find comfort in her television persona and presence.

Housing Decisions: “The threat of nuclear terrorism renews interest in living outside of large urban areas, further depressing housing prices in the larger metropolitan areas,” says a blogger at SeekingAlpha. This will re-define what real estate agents mean by “Location, location, location” as homebuyers put their safety at the top of their lists.

Foreign Affairs: There will be many strikes in the coming months, and many demonstrations on the streets of Athens,” says Barnaby Phillips at al Jazeera. Some Middle-Eastern countries are already hosts to protests against corruption, but Greece will emerge as a nation that demands international attention due to its financial crisis.

Presidential Liability: Michelle Obama will slip by her minders and say something outrageous. The MSM will not report it. Persons who refer to it will be denounced as racists,” says John Derbyshire in the National Review. The first lady has been relatively quiet throughout Obama’s first year in office, and she’s going to be used more going forward – with both parties bracing for it.

Internet Accessibility: “A little known technology company emerges to extend wireless across unlicensed bandwidths, with dramatic impact on the VoIP market,” says Rayne at FireDogLake. With Americans’ ever-increasing need for and reliance on wireless Internet, this service seems like a logical next step, and someone will make a major splash in the market when they figure out how to do it.

Television Technology: “TV goes 3D…The television industry is looking for the next big thing to sell us. 3D TV will be the next big push. 3D will also begin to creep into PC and console games. It might not be ready for primetime on any of these platforms, but 2010 will be the year that 3D starts to make serious headway,” says Tim Bajarin at PC Magazine. If Avatar is truly the “future of filmmaking,” then people will expect similar technology at home.

Sports Pardon: “I predict [Tiger] Woods will survive this self-created mess and the public will forgive him. What he did was a disgrace, but he remains the greatest golfer in the game and maybe the greatest ever,” says Cal Thomas at USA Today. If Tiger can get going again on the green, fans will disassociate Woods’ personal failings from the golfer’s professional prowess.

Music Listens:It’s been coming for more than a decade, but major labels are starting to grasp the digital opportunity…Expect 2010 to be the year that the bad press on the major labels starts becoming more favorable,” says Nick Crocker at Mashable. As all other industries are now following the lead of the consumers, the music business will have to adapt in order to survive, despite whatever growing pains and financial losses they endure at the beginning of the transition.

Comeback of the Decade: Reading

readingStudies say you are watching more TV than ever, even as you slurp up increasing amounts of Web video. Which means you must be spending less time on something else. Like reading, perhaps?

Nope. At least not according to a new study out of the University of California, San Diego, which says reading tripled from 1980 to 2008 “because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet”:

From Wired’s summary:

Americans consumed 3.6 billion terabytes of information last year, averaging 11.8 hours of information consumption per day. Video and videogames constituted 55 percent of those bytes, but on average, Americans read 36 percent of the 100,500 words they consume each day, according to the San Diego study, which analyzed more than 20 data sources. The study doesn’t cover writing, but a simple glance at Facebook feeds reveals that we’re almost certainly writing more than we used to, as well.

Obligatory “to be sure” graph: To be sure, the study’s definition of “reading” is as broad as possible. So it’s not just talking about grappling with Pynchon, but many less demanding forms of “receiving words” as well. Like skimming this text. Or a text message. Or a tweet. Etc.

Also, there’s a good chance that you’re “reading” while you’re watching TV and maybe watching some Web video at the same time. The UC San Diego study allows for lots of multitasking.

Still, this isn’t bad news, right? As long as you’re reading, you’re reading. And the more you read, the better the chances we’ll avoid an “Idiocracy”-like dystopia.

[Image credit: suchitra prints]