As of January 1st, I no longer get the Food Network or HGTV because Cablevision declined the rate increase being requested by Scripps Networks, the parent company of the two channels. Cablevision claims Scripps was attempting to raise the fee for those channels by 200% and that they could not accept those terms without passing the increases on to their cable subscribers like me. If you ask me, both sides have a greedy wrongheadedness about the value of their offerings. Cablevision charges too much for their services as it is, so they could certainly eat the price increase if they had to. Though I’m not saying they should, because I think Scripps is pretty delusional about the worth of their channels too. But in this day and age, there’s a way disputes like this get resolved- using the arbitration model just like in sports contract disputes. Get an independent arbitrator to listen to both sides and determine what is actually a fair carriage fee for the channels in question. It should be that simple, and at that point, whichever side refuses to go to arbitration is clearly the one in the wrong. Enough said.
As for me personally, I had lost almost all interest in the Food Network long ago. The good shows are either long gone (Taste with David Rosengarten, Molto Mario, the original Iron Chef), or relegated to very obscure hours (Jamie at Home). People that can actually cook, like Mario Batali, have been replaced by cartoonish personalities who annoy us with forced ebullience. So many of the current roster of Food Network celebrities remind me of used car salesmen. But these charlatans aren’t peddling vehicles, they’re selling themselves. They’re trying to convince you that they are fun, cool, and boy wouldn’t you just love to hang out with them. It’s not about food, it’s about them! Nauseating.
Slightly more regrettable is losing HGTV, but only slightly. The only show I watched there was Holmes On Homes, but I won’t miss it too much because it seemed they only had about 15 episodes in rotation and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all. That’s another thing to gripe about with Scripps- if they are going to charge more for these channels, they should damn well bring the other episodes of Holmes on Homes to the U.S. audience (there are tons of episodes that have only aired on HGTV Canada).
But while the fallout from this battle between Scripps and Cablevision is no big deal to me right now, I do have serious trepidation about the future. You see, Scripps also bought a majority stake in The Travel Channel back in November. Now that is a channel with programming that I do still like a lot. I love No Reservations, Dhani Tackles the Globe, Meet The Natives and sometimes I even find Samantha Brown, Andrew Zimmern and Man v. Food worthwhile. It scares me to think that Scripps and Cablevision could someday upturn this apple cart the same way they took the Food Network and HGTV away from 3.1 million viewers this past weekend. The way I see it, losing the Food Network is just mildly irritating. I’m annoyed only because it has become a part of popular culture and being a typical American with an inflated sense of entitlement, I feel I should have access to it even if I never actually use it. But losing the Travel Channel? Man, I hope it doesn’t ever come to that.