Fox Blacked Out Hulu For Cablevision Subscribers

A small skirmish in the pissing match between Fox and Cablevision could have major repercussions.

A spillover of its contract battle over cable programming with the cable provider, on Saturday Fox temporarily blacked out all of its content on Hulu to Cablevision customers.

“The tying of cable TV subscription to access to Internet fare freely available to other consumers is a very serious concern,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts in a statement on Saturday.

The pullback also affected customers who only use Cablevision as their ISP and not for their cable TV.

“When we realized we were affecting non-Cablevision video subscribers, we quickly altered our position,” said a News Corporation spokesperson who had just figured out how the internet works.

As discussions swirl over Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, which owns Hulu, this kind of leveraging of the walled garden controls of traditional media juggernauts to the internet is precisely the kind of behavior that concerns the FCC and consumer advocates. If it concerns you, you can voice your opinion via this online petition.

Internet Is a Weapon in Cable Fight [NYT] (Thanks to BrandonSavage!)

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Comments

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  1. winnabago says:

    This also blocked out paying customers, who have internet with Cablevision but TV with satellite, FIOS, etc. Nice move guys.

    • domcolosi says:

      Wow. Thanks for repeating what was said in the article. Good thing you got that first post, so you could look smart.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        I know, right? Because you would have much preferred to have been able to say RTFA?

  2. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    “When we realized we were affecting non-Cablevision video subscribers, we quickly altered our position,”

    Wait, they had no idea it was affecting Cablevision internet users, but somehow crafted an error message for Cablevision internet users? Am I reading this wrong?

    • Dyscord says:

      They didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about those who don’t have Cable but just internet.

      Yeah, it’s stupid. But then again, so is Fox for wanting more money.

  3. Omali says:

    More services should start dropping Fox, then they would stop putting up price hikes.

  4. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    “‘When we realized we were affecting non-Cablevision video subscribers, we quickly altered our position,’ said a News Corporation spokesperson who had just figured out how the internet works.”

    Thank you… that’s the first laugh I’ve had all day.

    • ames says:

      ditto. :D

      Fox is annoying the heck out of me these days. This crap, not having an OnDemand option with Time Warner Cable, boo fox. Boo.

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Yeah, they forgot to say that we are still going to find a way to charge you for our mistake. Sorry, you still have some blood left. Maybe a vampire sucking the blood from someones butt would have been a better picture for this article.

  5. Sword_Chucks says:

    Anyone still doubting the need for Net Neutrality? Yeah, thanks Fox and Cablevision for making it so damn obvious

    • menty666 says:

      Amen to that.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      I’ll play devil’s advocate on this one.

      Fox is currently under dispute with Cablevision for the rights to run their shows on TV service. Assuming that all cablevision internet customers are also cablevision TV customers (not likely, but stay with me), their blackout makes total sense – Cablevision’s contract is out and this would be a HUGE loophole so that their customers still get the benefit of Fox without Fox getting paid for its product.

      In that case, their actions are totally appropriate. You deserve to get paid for your product. Cablevision could just go to their customers and say “Just go to Hulu via the internet and you can see a bunch of the stuff that Fox is trying to stop you from seeing…”

      In that simple situation, “net neutrality” is wrong.

      However… the world isn’t that simple. So what we would need is a way for Fox to know which Cablevision internet users are also cablevision television users to ensure that they’re getting paid for their product. Right now, I don’t think there is a way to even check that.

      • tmac40 says:

        This would make sense if Fox programming was available on cable only. It is broadcast over the air into cablevision subscribers’, and everyone else’s, house for free. There is no reason this should affect hulu. Cablevision telling subscribers to go to hulu is no different than telling them to put up an antennae. This is the reason that comcast should not be allowed to buy NBC.

      • DevsAdvocate says:

        Wait a second… Hulu has ads that help support it… how are Cablevision users not paying for Fox content when they’re still forced to watch ads supporting said content?

        Another thing… how does Fox justify selling what can be gotten for free over the air? They didn’t ban Fox News or FBN or FX… (right?)

    • DanRydell says:

      This isn’t related to network neutrality. The idea of network neutrality is that the network operators should not discriminate against any type of data that passes over their network, regardless of its source.

      That’s not at all what is happening here. This is a content provider choosing to restrict its content to certain users. There is nothing wrong with it. If they were using some method other than the Internet to transmit their content to users, would you argue that they have to make it available to everyone? No. The fact that the Internet is their method of transmission is irrelevant. It doesn’t and shouldn’t force them to make their content available to everyone.

      • DanRydell says:

        An illustration might help you understand the difference. The Internet is like our system of roads, and the nodes on the Internet are the houses and businesses on those roads. It would be wrong to restrict me from driving down a road, but just because a business is on a road doesn’t mean they HAVE to let me in their building.

        I hesitate to use illustrations because people inevitably make the mistake of arguing against the illustration and assuming that same argument would apply to what is being illustrated… fingers crossed.

        • Mr. Pottersquash says:

          Good illustration, I always used rail roads as an example. Good way to show why BitTorrent is such a problem.

        • sagodjur says:

          It’s more like a series of tubes…

          But your illustration doesn’t cover the scenario here. If the internet is like a road and the nodes are like businesses, then this particular scenario would fit into your illustration by stating that the business has the right to discriminate against people based on which car they drive (i.e. how they get around on the internet – their ISP). While perfectly legal in the “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone!” sense – it’s still unethical. This isn’t about what is legal. This is about what is right. Blocking all internet customers from a particular ISP over a pricing dispute with that ISP’s cable television side of the business is unethical.

      • FilthyHarry says:

        Yes its not the same, but its clearly related. People are losing access to content based on their ISP.

        • richcreamerybutter says:

          Exactly. If we truly had a “free market” in the cable and broadband industries with healthy competition, content restriction be a different story. The extremely limited number of options put this securely inside the border of the net neutrality issue.

          If I ever suddenly had the urge to pay for TV, this is why I would never, ever fall for one of these “triple play” packages. In addition to the possibility of a complete internet/TV outage, you become susceptible to these corporate shenanigans. You don’t keep all your money in one bank, so why depend on one company for access?

      • RonDiaz says:

        ESPN3 does this…and it’s sucks since I am a CenturyLink subscriber and this is a one ISP town.

    • BuddhaLite says:

      Except this has nothing to do with net neutrality.

      • captadam says:

        True. But the situation in reverse DOES illustrate the need for net neutrality–and it could likely happen. Assume that Cablevision escalated this pissing contest by blocking access to fox.com, foxnews.com, hulu.com, or whatever. It could happen.

      • amadaden says:

        Not true. As of late people have only been focusing on the ‘tiered service’ net neutrality dooms day situation. However, the idea of having a neutral net is that everyone is equal no matter where you are going, how you are going there and (relevant in this case) where you are coming from. What fox is doing is denying people due to network information not input information. This is NOT a net neutral action.

        Technically they could still do this but be net neutral if they required cable account information for hulu accounts. All network traffic would be equal at this point with the input information determining the returned data.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Slate had a piece today that brought up a good point – net neutrality, as we’ve been defining it, has been kind of a one way street. It’s been about ISPs not being able to dictate the flow of content – but what about the content-provider being able to dictate the flow of content to the ISPs?

    • Tim says:

      As I understand it, net neutrality would only apply to the ISPs, not Internet users (and Fox is, in this case, a user). So Cablevision would be prohibited from blocking Fox content, but not the other way around.

      • quail says:

        Initially that would be true. But you’d also get ISPs who’d then start to sue sites that blocked their ISP but not others for no apparent reason. That sort of game playing would end quickly.

  6. Thaddeus says:

    I remember the good old days when you watched television on a TV…. and taped things using a VCR.

    Also there were pogs.

    • Bye says:

      ALF pogs, at that!

    • sufreak says:

      And you had to walk to school uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow. With no shoes. And hopping on one foot.

      There were days where the family could gather around the fire and listen to the radio.

      New technology creates new ways to be greedy and screw the consumer.

    • Milch says:

      These new bracelets have nothing on Pogs!

    • discounteggroll says:

      and the 16+ oz kini (slammer)

    • nybiker says:

      What old days? That’s how I record things today. I canceled directv earlier this year when the price got too high relative to return on my investment. Basically, when you’re unemployed, spending money on sat/cable for tv doesn’t make much sense. And since I stopped caring about any baseball in 1994 (as a result of the strike), I’m not missing anything. And when I do get a job, I am wondering if I will sign up again.

  7. wkm001 says:

    This reminds me of how the RIAA went down kicking and screaming with their business model. I mean, it is almost scary how similar this is. The cable companies aren’t going to listen until we start disconnecting. Then they will be in the same spot as Verizon. Kind of hard to unring that bell on all the people disconnecting from copper land lines.

  8. brianisthegreatest says:

    This is ridiculous. I understand Cablevision likes to rub salt in the wound and give messages to their subscribers about how some new channel isn’t happy with them and it’s all their fault. However, Fox went a bit over the line. We are talking about NewsCorp though…

  9. schiff says:

    As a cablevision customer Im left wondering how this is even legal? The hulu agreement is separate from the cablevision tv agreement. This is just pure extortion.

    • DanRydell says:

      Why wouldn’t it be legal? It’s a free service, they don’t have to provide it to everyone if they don’t want to.

      • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

        On the other hand selecting some arbitrary criteria to select users who are allowed or not allowed to access it (such as where you are connected to the internet) is hardly justifiable.
        I know, it wasn’t arbitrary from FOX’s point of view, but it certainly is from mine.
        So what’s next? We determine that you live (or more likely, you are currently in) CA (for example), so you don’t qualify for our nationwide service? Or we determined that prior to this you watched a CBS show, so stay there?
        I’d say a free service is an all or nothing concept: otherwise it’s a slipper slope…. can you say discrimination?

        • common_sense84 says:

          I see this naturally going to a system where Fox randomly select certain ISPs to pay them fees for access to hulu. And if they refuse, hulu gets blocked. Then fox airs ads all over the local tv networks blasting the ISP that refused to pay them and imploring people to switch.

          Which is exactly what is going on with the dish network and of course Fox.

          This is an attempt to turn the internet into a cable service where websites get paid fees by the ISP for customers to have access.

          One of the things net neutrality is needed to prevent.

    • adamstew says:

      Fox owns 31% of Hulu, so they have a good bit of sway there.

      You’re right, the Hulu content has NOTHING to do with the Cablevision contract. Fox decided that if you were coming from a Cablevision internet connection, then they wouldn’t let you access any Fox content on Hulu.

      That decision was 100% Fox’s and isn’t related to Cablevision in any way, except that Fox decided to use Hulu as a way to put pressure on Cablevision.

  10. shepd says:

    So, just like normal for the vast majority of the world (Stupid idiotic agreements that make this stuff only available in small parts of the world… *sigh*)

    • DanRydell says:

      They aren’t “stupid idiotic agreements,” but some stupid, idiotic people don’t understand the reasons behind them.

      1. Hulu content is paid for by advertisers. Obviously advertisers only want to pay when their add is delivered to their target audience, i.e. Americans.
      2. The companies that produce the content have already sold it to TV networks in other countries, so they can’t compete with their own partners by offering that same content for free over the Internet to people in those other countries.

      • shepd says:

        Sorry, I’m too stupid to read your reply.

        But to me, they’re stupid and idiotic because they get in the way of progress and getting things done. To you, that business as usual, I suppose.

  11. Red Cat Linux says:

    Wow. Hope that Cablevision doesn’t also offer ethernet phone service. Fox might be blocking all the customers from using the telephone to call them as well.

    This is inexcusable. If Fox has thier undies in a knot over the concept that Cablevision customers might possibly see their shows for free on Hulu, this is besides the point. The thing is they DO offer it for free, and all the time. Fox has every right to black out their cable TV offerings to Cablevision, but not the Internet. That’s just stupid.

    • DanRydell says:

      They have the right to do both. It’s their content.

      • common_sense84 says:

        No they absolutely do not. The internet has nothing to do with cable licensing. They cannot just target a single ISP for discrimination. This is a huge blatant anti-trust violation.

        This would be like the NFL banning you from buying a ticket to the game because your local cable company won’t carry the NFL network.

        The two are completely unrelated, no matter what Fox thinks. This is why we need good network neutrality legislation to prevent monopoly actions like this.

        Again, this would be the same as fox block cable vision internet because cable vision does not give fox higher priority on their network.

        Blatantly illegal in many ways, yet of course the federal government won’t do shit.

  12. David Ciani says:

    common carrier……

  13. Enduro says:

    I think this is great timing. This shows how important net neutrality is while it’s in the public forum. This little hiccup for Cablevision internet users could be the final straw.

    Let’s also use this bully move to ask cable stations to pull Fox NEWS (before the election noless) and unless they drop the per user fee on their commercial stations. The cable providers have a ton of leverage right now and don’t even recognize it.

  14. msky says:

    whatever happened to net neutrality?

  15. JKxZ says:

    And people don’t believe me when I say that Comcast and Time Warner Cable are forcing Clearwire to do the same to customers that are trying to use Netflix and Hulu instead of buying their cable services by throttling the users to a point were you cannot reliably access the services.

    Users that use 1GB of data in a 24 hour period are throttled down to 0.75Mb/s. Try substituting Netflix for Cable with that kind of bandwidth.

    • quail says:

      That’s why when I decided to get rid of cable TV I went with Verizon’s Fios as my ISP. Cable anything as an ISP can become a bad thing because the more people who use it causes it to slow down.

      5 years ago neighbors with 4 teenagers moved out of the neighborhood and my TWC internet connection sped up to speeds I never thought possible. Unfortunately in just 1-1/2 years I watched Wi-Fi connections increase and my internet crawl back down in speed. It was what made me jump from TWC finally. (Yea, I think the teenagers were pirating movies & music 24/7.)

  16. JKxZ says:

    And people don’t believe me when I say that Comcast and Time Warner Cable are forcing Clearwire to do the same to customers that are trying to use Netflix and Hulu instead of buying their cable services by throttling the users to a point were you cannot reliably access the services.

    Users that use 1GB of data in a 24 hour period are throttled down to 0.75Mb/s. Try substituting Netflix for Cable with that kind of bandwidth.

    • maubs says:

      That’s my DSL connection (my only ‘broadband’ option) without throttling. Effectively I can’t stream NetFlix, unless I like the blocky 500Kb stream. So disappointing.

  17. NotEd says:

    I recall reading yester that the afffected Cablevision IP addresses were being blocked from accessing the affected channel and Fox coporate websites. As the Hulu content is pulled from those sites that is why the Hulu content was blocked as well.

    Still annjoying if it is true, but not Hulu’s fault then.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      I don’t think anyone was saying it was hulu’s fault. It’s kind of obvious Fox was behind it. On the other hand, Fox is a major stakeholder in hulu.

  18. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I wonder if Fox content was similarly blocked for people paying for Hulu Plus subscriptions. The article doesn’t address that. I’d be mightily pissed if I were actually paying for blocked Hulu content.

  19. adamstew says:

    This is why I think the FCC needs to mandate a-la-carte cable pricing. It wouldn’t even be very difficult:

    $10-15/mo for the connection… this is what you pay for the cable running to your house, the cable co’s profit, and ALL the local broadcast and public access channels. This rate is dictated by the FCC, and (as a condition for the license to the public radio waves) the local stations have to participate. Fox is supposed to be making their money by advertising anyway…by trying to get the Cable customers to pay for their channels as well as the advertising is just Fox attempting to double-dip.

    Then you can add as many channels as you want for a maximum of $5/mo for each channel. Each channel is able to set any price they want, up to $5/mo for each channel.

    Each company that owns multiple channels can sell bundles of channels at any price they want, so long as each channel is still available individually, and the overall price of the bundle doesn’t exceed $5/mo per channel.

    Any company would also be able to forgo any carriage fees on any of their channels to have those channels included in the basic subscription, if they choose.

    The cable cos can put together their own bundles of channels, in which they can mix-and-match channels however they please, so long as the overall price of the bundle doesn’t exceed $5/mo and they can’t offer any “bundle-only” channels.

    This would do several things:

    1) The existing packages and setups can continue to exist as they are. The cable companies can use things like on-demand and other digital cable style features as a value-added incentive for people to get the packages.

    2) Premium channels can continue to exist as they do now. The most these guys charge are typically $15/mo… and they usually offer 3 or more channels each, so they can continue to offer their packages. They would just also be required to offer their individual channels for a maximum price of $5/mo each. They can also promote the $15/mo packages by offering on-demand content like they currently do.

    3) Content companies can continue to promote new channels by selling packages of channels. “Get all Disney owned channels for $15/mo! This would include all the ESPNs, Disney channels, ABC Family, etc….” They would immediately get an audience of any new channels they launch from anyone who subscribes to their packages. They can also use their broadcast channels (the free ones) to promote their pay-for channels.

    4) For the consumer who only uses cable for a few channels, yet is forced to subsidize other channels, they can say no to the other channels and get a price break on the bill.

    5) These contract disputes would pretty much be a thing of the past, since any rate hikes a channel tries to do will be directly reflected on the cable bills of their customers and the individual consumers would be able to see that “Fox raised their rates again!” instead of it being Cablevision who raised their rates. They would actually have to compete on price.

    6) We might actually see a reduction in the number of commercials a channel shows, or even some commercial free cable channels. Most channels don’t have to worry about pissing off people with commercials, because they are forced to be a subscriber by virtue of having cable. But if people can suddenly call their cable co and turn off a channel, they might actually see that “since we increased the number of commercials, we now have 10% less people subscribing”. Advertisers would also probably want to see the number of subscribers to a particular channel before agreeing to advertising rates.

    7) Increase the quality of content. If people can actually say “This channel is just useless garbage” and stop paying for it, content providers will be motivated to increase the quality because they get paid for subscribers.

    8) This might actually save the cable-tv industry from the internet. If people are able to choose to subscribe to the content they actually want and get a reasonable bill, then it would certainly slow down and potentially stop any cord-cutters. It would also give the cable companies the ability to compete with the likes of Hulu and iTunes.

    • Michaela says:

      I have wanted something like this for ages.

    • psm321 says:

      What a well thought-out plan. I usually am opposed to most a-la-carte proposals because I like having some of those “niche” channels, but it looks like you’ve thought through all the potential objections/problems and come up with a pretty good system

    • vastrightwing says:

      Nice idea. The providers will only do this once subscribers start cutting the cord. I already changed service providers to the antenna, so I don’t care. But I’d consider going back to cable if had the choice to get a la carte channels.

      Also, having hundreds of channels is a navigation headache since you have to scroll around so much. If I only had 5-10 channels, it would be much easier too.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s great. I would totally do this, because about half of what I get is stuff I don’t watch anyway. I recently downgraded on DTV to save money and unfortunately, I lost stuff I actually DO watch and am still stuck with crap I could care less about.

      I’d drop it all together if I had better intertubes.

    • Conformist138 says:

      The only problem: there would likely be some level of contract involved for each channel and/or fees for adding/dropping channels (or at least for dropping). The issue would be when people say “Oh, look, Starz is showing this movie I want to see… let’s add Starz to our lineup.” *two hours later* “Ok, let’s cancel Starz now.”

      Maybe something simple like requiring payment for at least 1 month so people don’t abuse prorating.

    • thomas_callahan says:

      Can you submit that to all of the cable companies, networks, and the FCC? PLEASE!?

  20. Munchtime says:

    The online petition is a fine idea, but the default text for personalizing is mistaken about NBC-U having popular shows like “Flashforward.” That show was produced by ABC Studios and it aired on ABC and got cancelled. Getting a small data point that like incorrect reduces the credibility for each person who signs it without editing the content. Throw Sunday Night Football and The Biggest Loser on there and at least you’ve got Top 20 shows.

  21. Floppywesl says:

    Go Go Gadget Torrents!

  22. blanddragon says:

    This is stupid. We are being held hostage by Corp America again? I’m shocked, not.

  23. Gulliver says:

    I am glad this happened. It shows why Net Neutrality is important and NBCast is a bad idea

  24. davidsco says:

    As long as these very same moron legislator continue to put the rubber stamp on telecom mergers, this will continue to happen. Of course, that would take money out of their pockets

  25. common_sense84 says:

    This is why net neutrality is so damn important. They have no right to restrict select ISPs from content they otherwise make accessible to everyone.

  26. MustWarnOthers says:

    Does anyone know how the filtering is done?

    Is it by IP Address range?

    If so, Cablevision customers should google a free vpn service.

  27. chirish1025 says:

    I find it curious that the only TV subscription service that fox is not “beefing” with is Comcast!

  28. damageddude says:

    That was such a pity, spiteful thing to do.