Satellite TV Companies To Lobby On Their Own Behalf By Using Fans

October 22, 2009 – 4:34 pm by Ryan Phillips

lobbyists

Yesterday the Washington Times broke a story that we’d been tipped off to by an anonymous source a few days ago. In the process of fact-checking and seeing what we could verify, the Times ran its article.

The long and short of the situation is this, satellite television companies have created a “fan advocacy” group called the Sports Fan Coalition. The purpose of the group is to lobby Washington in support of sports fans. The group’s platform includes demanding that publicly financed stadiums offer cheaper tickets and have no media blackouts; the creation of a college football playoff; and demanding that local sports fans can view their local sporting events via television or the internet regardless of their service provider.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong.

The group is almost completely backed by satellite television networks and another of its goals will be to push for enforcement of rules governing the carriage of sports networks that will benefit satellite at the expense of competing cable providers.

Thanks to a power point presentation acquired via our anonymous source, we obtained a list of the group’s corporate board of advisors and contributors. Five companies are listed: DISH Network, DirecTV, RCN, Verizon and AT&T.

The idea of any group including DirecTV advocating for more fairness in the marketplace is laughable at best. The group claims to want to push against exclusivity, while they have an exclusive right to the most valuable property in all of sports, NFL games.

The Power Point we have access to, lists the organization’s board. The Chairman of that board is David Goodfriend, who is a former lobbyist for Dish Network.

Also, one of the non-profit advisory groups for the Sports Fan Coalition is Public Knowledge. While Public Knowledge has always wished to maintain the image of an incorruptible consumer advocate, they’re now part of a dubious corporate-backed coalition. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (a lobbyist watchdog group) has already dubbed the Sports Fan Coalition as an obvious front-group to lobby on behalf of satellite companies.

“It seems like a classic front group,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Times. “Their whole point is to get away with something and fool people into making them think they care about sports. It’s the product of lobbyists.”

Our source on the inside of this whole deal claims to have come forward because he feels this group will mislead sports fans into supporting something that will actually, in the end, hurt them. He, understandably, chose to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of this issue and the fact that his job might be on the line if his name was made public.

Here is what he told us:

“As you know, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other large companies have regional and some national sports networks. Plus, the rumored deal between Comcast and NBC would give Comcast enough sports content to rival ESPN. This likely has competitors quaking in their boots. The Sports Fan Coalition will likely attack cable companies for placing sports teams games – played in arenas/stadiums funded by local taxpayers – on a cable tier for which people must pay.”

Obviously the satellite industry isn’t completely blameless in this regard, considering DirecTV maintains a long term, exclusive deal with the NFL for its Sunday Ticket package. For years cable customers (like me) have been frustrated with their inability to access that package without having to switch to satellite TV full-time. To be fair, I would probably switch to satellite if they could ever figure out a way for me to be able to actually watch TV when it’s freaking raining outside.

This year, when the NFL is blacking out games locally because fans can’t afford over-priced tickets due to the state of the economy, the only way to get access is through DirecTV. Therefore the satellite television industry has partnered with the NFL to black out local games, but rather than try to fix the problem or do the right thing, they’re going to attempt to drive fans’ anger toward their cable competitors.

Now don’t get us wrong, cable companies are not angels and we’ve got plenty of problems with them. We just think it’s completely disingenuous for satellite companies to act as if they’re working completely in the interest of fans, when in reality they’re pushing their own agenda.

Our source continued regarding the launch of the Sports Fan Coalition:

“Its ‘soft launch’ will take place in fall 2009 with a public launch and press conference coming sometime between October and December.

So far they’ve been keeping news of this launch under wraps, but they recently submitted a logo competition to a crowdsourcing Web site; apparently they didn’t know Google’s spiders would crawl it.”

If you want to check out the Power Point for yourself, it has been taken down but can be accessed via Google cache here.

So basically don’t believe anything coming from the Sports Fan Coalition. They’re not looking out for you in any way, shape or form. While their stated purpose sounds lovely, the actual goal of the group is to get more power and access for the same satellite companies that are currently ripping off the American consumer.

A Note On Our Source: He wanted us to make it clear that while he thinks this whole thing is a sham, he does have an interest in seeing it fail and be outed for what it really is. He didn’t come forward solely for altruistic reasons. And it now appears that he “leaked” this information to as many places as possible.

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  1. 16 Responses to “Satellite TV Companies To Lobby On Their Own Behalf By Using Fans”

  2. Informative post, but I don’t see why the satellite companies are necessarily the bad guys vis a vis the cable companies here. It’s my understanding that it’s the inability of both parties to work together that’s hurting consumers and that it might be the more entrenched cable companies (owned by the likes of Dolans and such) that are more to blame.

    I guess what I’m not seeing here is how you can necessarily conclude that a shift in the rules that “will benefit satellite at the expense of competing cable providers” wouldn’t actually result in more fairness in the marketplace. As it is now, many can’t even buy Direct TV even if they want to. Not sure that’s the case anywhere with cable.

    By Cleveland Frowns on Oct 23, 2009

  3. CF,
    What’s the real problem that we don’t like here is that the satellite companies are going to lobby for themselves under the guise of doing it for sports fans.

    There are plenty of problems with cable companies and we don’t support them over satellite necessarily. We just think it’s completely disingenuous to say you’re going to lobby on behalf of “sports fans” and use that as a front to achieve goals that really only benefit your corporate interests.

    By Phillips on Oct 23, 2009

  4. Understandable, though I suppose it’s still a possibility that their interests are aligned with sports fans so that they’re truly lobbying for the interests of both.

    By Cleveland Frowns on Oct 23, 2009

  5. Yeah, but when was the last time satellite companies gave two shits about the consumer?

    By Phillips on Oct 23, 2009

  6. http://deadspin.com/5388533/fans-media-recruited-and-manipulated-in-fight-over-televised-sports

    By anonymous source on Oct 23, 2009

  7. Wow, Phillips. You come out of this smelling like turds.

    By alberto on Oct 23, 2009

  8. Aye, turds it is. Spood-fed turns from a pr firm repping the cable industry. Nice bloggin’, Phillips.

    By Brian on Oct 23, 2009

  9. You can believe that if you want, we knew who the guy was the whole time. We’re not defending the cable industry on this one, just saying what the satellite companies are doing is wrong. We checked everything and nothing the guy told us was wrong.

    Again, never said that cable companies are good or anything. Several newspapers have done reports about this already (including the Washington Times piece we linked to).

    Look at the update from Tim Lemke at the Washington Times that has been added to the Deadspin post and he basically makes the same point.

    By Phillips on Oct 23, 2009

  10. Except for the whole thing about you copying and pasting the pr guy’s statement as your own thoughts…

    By alberto on Oct 24, 2009

  11. You have obviously changed a lot of the content while keeping the time stamp/date from your original post – trying to cover your tracks?

    By Jack on Oct 26, 2009

  12. We actually never copied and pasted the guy’s thoughts. We restated the facts he gave us after checking them with several sources. There was nothing taken verbatim except for his quotes. Why would we quote him in some parts, then not in others if we were taking things verbatim?

    We did go back and change a few things to clarify our point because I don’t think it came across the way I wanted it in the original way I wrote it.

    By Phillips on Oct 26, 2009

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