By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
More than 30 years as a TV journalist.

“I want to subscribe to DIRECTV streaming. No, not DIRECTV Stream. Streaming…DIRECTV Streaming, right? I used to have DIRECTV Stream. I want DIRECTV Streaming. I think…”

The satellite TV provider has lost 13 million subscribers in the last eight years. What did it do in 2023 to improve subscriber numbers? It created a new service called DIRECTV via Internet to go with its DIRECTV Stream service which you get…via the Internet! Yes, two different streaming services with different names and different pricing and terms. They say the first step to selling is communicating clearly what your product is. This might be step 168.

2. Warner Bros. Discovery
Speaking of creating confusion in the marketplace, Warner Bros. Discovery removed one of the industry’s most respected brands, HBO, from the title of its streaming service (HBO Max.) HBO had built a loyal following over more than four decades, but now the streamer is just Max. No, not Cinemax; that’s another WBD property. (Yes, more market confusion.) Just Max. Logan Roy would have never approved of this one, folks.

3. Sinclair and Bally Sports
Sinclair Broadcasting last March created a new unit called Diamond Sports to operate the Bally Sports regional sports networks. The new unit’s first move? Declare bankruptcy. Then, Diamond Sports’ management team started to feel its oats and decided to sue its parent, Sinclair, claiming it raided its coffers during the transition. Sinclair sued back and so did DS’ creditors and now it looks like the RSN company will have to liquidate in 2024. This is a self-inflicted mess of historic proportions.

4. Netflix
Netflix has resisted carrying live sports for years but this week it debuted ‘The Netflix Cup,’ a celebrity golf tournament featuring professional golfers and F1 drivers. Instead of being a showcase for what the streamer can do with live sports, the first 45 minutes looked more like an episode of Benny Hill with the participants running around and bumping into each other on a Vegas golf course while trying to hit the ball. I’m still not quite sure what the objective was – or why Marshawn Lynch was wandering around smoking a cigar and uttering unintelligible bursts of something — but it didn’t quite resemble golf. The show settled down after about an hour, but I suspect America had moved on to Get Gotti or the latest Netflix show on serial killers.

5. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
Pay TV subscribers are sick to death of channel blackouts caused by carriage disputes between the TV provider and local broadcaster. But instead of proposing something to end them, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has offered a new rule that could actually create more of them.

The rule, which has yet to be approved by the full FCC, would require cable and satellite operators to provide refunds to consumers who are affected by carriage blackouts. This would likely give the broadcasters more leverage in the negotiations because the pay TV ops would be required to pay out the refunds if they don’t agree to their demands. Knowing that, the broadcasters could set their fee demands even higher which could trigger more blackouts. The rebate requirement would do nothing to put pressure on the broadcasters to settle the dispute.

If the FCC really wants to stop blackouts, propose a rule that would require the two warring companies to submit to arbitration to settle the dispute within seven days. But that would likely ruffle a few political feathers so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than three decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television. See the bio for Phillip Swann here.