By Jamie Yarbrough – February 5, 2018 – This is my 9:59 am email today’s date to the CEO of Northwest Broadcasting:
“I’ll make this simple. Greed sucks. No one is experiencing any kind of hardship because you aren’t getting enough money. Just as automation is going to be taking millions of jobs the answer isn’t to raise prices. The answer is to reshuffle the deck and let people go to find other vocations.
You’re taking CBS out of my lineup? Are you INSANE??? While I wish no one ill, I sincerely hope a deep pocket customer sues you into oblivion for this acreages action.
Get a life. Leave my programming alone.”
At 5:25 pm this evening I received this:
Thanks for reaching out. I agree greed sucks, however this has nothing to do with greed. This is about a private negotiation between two companies with one using their subscribers to gain leverage on the other. The fact is we have done over 20 of these deals with other cable companies this past year and offered Spectrum the same rates and terms as all the others. I’m not sure how that should be defined as greedy. I have spoken to many Spectrum subscribers over the last couple of days and there seems to be lots of confusion. I wrote a post today that I’ve attached in an attempt to clear up the confusion. I know it is long but it’s the only why I know how to let people know what has happened. I’m sorry you’re in the middle of this. Brian
First let me apologize to all Spectrum customers that have been affected by our negotiation with Spectrum. We are broadcasters first and foremost and are proud of that. We broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. And the best part of that is it’s free if you choose to watch it over the air. However, cable companies like Spectrum must pay for our copy righted material which they in turn sell to you.
For the most part these negotiations are private matters that companies work through without involving or disrupting subscribers. We have been in this business for close to thirty years and in that time we have been involved in lots of these negotiations. If you look at our past you will find that we have been in this situation before and in some of those cases we were the ones who withheld our consent. What we found in every one of those cases was that cable subscribers don’t know who to trust. Both sides fire up their public relation machines and point fingers at each other expecting the subscriber to take sides. Well the fact is the subscriber doesn’t want to take sides and they don’t want to be in the middle. What they want is to watch TV without the drama they currently find themselves in the middle of.
As I said, people don’t know who to trust. In this case all I can do as the President and CEO of Northwest Broadcasting is give you the facts as they unfolded, answer the allegations they are making against my company and then let you be the judge of what you think the truth is. In June of last year our COO traveled to New York to meet with Spectrum’s representative. Our expectation was to begin the negotiation so that it could be completed well before the January 31 expiration. While there were a few conversation and exchanges of proposals it was a slow process. Two weeks before the contract was to expire we were told by their representative that they would not counter our recent proposal and that if we wanted to give them another number they would tell us if they would agree to it.
We have negotiated lots of agreements with many companies over the years and the translation of that statement is, we are done negotiating. We tend to believe the words people say so we focused on other deals expecting that eventually we would hear back from them. Indeed we did, on the 31st of January, the day the contract was to expire. They called and asked why we hadn’t responded to their proposal. Since we knew that we had given Spectrum the last written proposal we asked, “what proposal”? Their representative claimed to have made a verbal proposal. For the record that’s a conversation not a proposal. When challenged about the accuracy of a statement, he responded, “You’re right I made that up”. These negotiations are hard enough without people making things up.
In an effort to get to some resolution we did something we never do. We gave them a new proposal knowing we were actually negotiating against ourselves. We then offered them an extension until Friday at 5pm in order for us to work together so as to avoid any disruption. Friday afternoon with the new deadline looming they sent us a counter offer that was going to need work. Knowing it was going to take more time we offered another extension through 5 pm Saturday and said let’s roll up our sleeves and get this figured out. Their response was they wanted to extend until Monday so their subscribers could watch the Super Bowl before they took the stations down. Perplexed by what they had said we repeated our offer to extend until Saturday at five and if we didn’t come to an agreement we would deal with another extension at that time. Their next response was, “we are taking your station down in the next ten minutes” and they hung up the phone. We haven’t heard from them since.
If their words weren’t enough, what happened next was a clear indication that they had made a calculated decision to take the stations down sacrificing their unsuspecting subscribers as pawns in an effort to use them as leverage in our negotiation. We were caught completely off guard as we scrambled to let our managers and employees know what had just happened. Our phones and email lit up as they were not just using their subscriber as pawns they had actually weaponized them. I had thousands of emails hit my server with a subscriber’s name and a <firstname.lastname@example.org> address. I talked to their subscribers who told me that there was a web site directing them to call Northwest with my name, number and email address on it. The channel the station would have been on had instructions to “take action now and let Northwest know you want a fair deal!” Call Northwest Broadcasting today at 517-347-4141 or go to a web site they created and enter your information which then generated a robo email.
We answered calls from Spectrum’s subscribers late into the evening and responded to emails that were directly from subscribers and not robo emails. We answered emails explaining that we had offered and extension and they refused it. As is usually the case, people were suspect and when they called Spectrum’s call center they were told Northwest instructed Spectrum to take our stations down. How do you defend yourself when a multi-billion dollar company lies and then has the audacity to call you a liar? The only way I know how is to continue to shed light on the truth. So I continued to speak with as many subscribers as possible and answered their email. We also posted a message to our web pages to refute what they were saying about us.
This wasn’t some low level manager who was freelancing a decision to sacrifice subscribers, it had to go right to the top. My speculation is that Tom Rutledge the President and CEO of Spectrum made the decision. It is troubling that a company of that size and scale could be so cold and calculating that they would sacrifice the loss of subscribers in smaller communities around the country. People in Yuma, AZ, Crescent City, CA and Jackson, WY couldn’t see the Super Bowl while he was most likely sitting in a luxury box in Minneapolis enjoying the game. These same people will not be able to see the Winter Olympics while he will also likely be in South Korea enjoying yet another sporting event he chose to withhold from his subscribers. Places like Binghamton and Syracuse, NY, Medford, OR, Spokane and Yakima WA, are also without local news, sports and entertainment programming.
Why is this happening people ask? Because Tom Rutledge the President and CEO of the second largest cable company on the planet doesn’t care about and has no respect for you. He only cares that he can use you as one more weapon in negotiating with our company while you continue to pay for the substandard service most of you have described to me. Tom’s 98 million dollar bonus dwarfs the total size of our company. Their propaganda says they just want a fair deal. Spectrum is a publicly traded company and has a market value of 109 billion dollars. One share of their stock cost 391 dollars. I’m sure that is more than the majority of Tom’s subscriber’s monthly car payments. I’m confident if Tom can run a 109 billion dollar company he is competent enough to negotiate a fair deal with our company without your assistance.
For what you are paying Spectrum you shouldn’t be asked to do Tom’s job. Think about it, he takes away the programming you want to watch, expects to you to pay your bill and offers no refund for what he has taken from you and then weaponizes you to do his dirty work. Frankly, if he doesn’t want to purchase our programming then he should just be honest and say that then all of you can make the choice that works best for you.
I have no doubt that when his public relations team sees this they will craft a response that will try to counter everything I have told you. In the end you’ll decide for yourselves what to do and who to believe. I ask that you remember one thing, you are their customer so at the end of the day this is really between you and Spectrum. This morning a subscriber called and asked if we were negotiating right now? When questioned about where she heard that, she replied Spectrum’s call center. Another in a long line of inaccurate statements meant to confuse and keep you from cancelling their service so you can switch to a provider which will allow you to watch the Olympics and all the other programming Tom is denying you.
So I encourage you to write an email or make a call to Tom and share with him your thoughts on what he’s done. Share with him your general dissatisfaction with his company. That same dissatisfaction represented in your posts on Spectrum’s Facebook page. Tell him you don’t want to pay nearly 4 dollars for a channel guide that every other cable company has as part of their service. Tell him that you don’t ever want Spectrum to disrespect you again by using you as a weapon in his smear campaign against another company. Tell him that if he won’t do his job and get you the programming you’re paying for that you will go to his competitor. His email address is: email@example.com 203-905-7999
I’m sure you will hear back from his public relations team with some more inaccurate rhetoric, please send me an email and let me know. I promise I will do my best to personally answer you. #DoYourJobTom
President and CEO
Northwest Broadcasting, Inc