Category Archives: Business

A Tale of Two Disputes: The Very Different Cases of Dish Network vs. AMC & DirecTV vs. Viacom

On July 1, satellite carrier Dish Network dropped the networks of AMC. This includes IFC and WEtv in addition to AMC, the home of Emmy darlings Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and the ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead.  Dish says it’s because AMC asked for a price increase; AMC says it’s because of a law suit between the two companies over a now-defunct brand of HD networks called Voom.

Eleven days later, DirecTV dropped the channels owned by Viacom (MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, CMT, VH1, Spike, and more) over a dispute as to how much Viacom will charge the satellite company to transmit their networks.

The first major battle in the Dish/AMC war was last night when AMC unveiled the fifth and final season premiere of Breaking Bad, starring three-time Best Actor Emmy winner Bryan Cranston.  The winner was clearly AMC, as Breaking Bad pulled in the highest amount of viewers in the show’s history. Did AMC fans jump the Dish ship and sign up with another provider?

The next battle will be in October when the third season of The Walking Dead premieres. Last year, The Walking Dead broke ratings records not just for AMC but for all of basic cable with it’s story of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

On the other hand, things aren’t looking so bright over at Viacom in light of DirecTV dropping their networks. Ratings are plummeting for Nickelodeon (down 33%) and MTV (down 43%).

Are you a satellite customer who’s suffering from a loss of programming? Who’s side are you on?

S&P Downgrade: Stocks Tumble, Obama Makes Statement

Days after Standard & Poor cut the long-term debt rating for the United States to AA+ from AAA on Friday, and today did the same thing for dozens of US issued bond issues.

The President made a statement earlier this afternoon.  “We didn’t need a rating agency to tell us we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction,” he said in his televised remarks.

Stocks continue to nosedive as investors react to the news.

Black Friday Shopping

Last year I wrote about the scene at my local mall on Black Friday on the American Currents site.   The mall opened at midnight again this year, and I was there.  But, I also checked out a few other spots. I was curious if the slowly improving economy would trickle down to my local retail outlets, bringing more shoppers than in 2009.

My first stop was the mall.  I was there by 11:50pm and I found a line of about two hundred people waiting at the main entrance.  There were fewer people lined up at other mall entrances, but security guards were going to each entrance to inform shoppers that the only doors opening at midnight were the ones at the main entrance.  I asked a few people how long they had been in line and no one – not even people toward the front of the line – said they had been there for longer than an hour.  The weather forecast had brought predictions of a chilly and rainy Thanksgiving Day that would continue into Friday, but rain gave way to clouds early Thursday afternoon and by 11:55pm the temperate was a comfortable 53 degrees.  As I was checking the weather on my cellphone, the doors to the mall opened and people began to rush inside.

11:50 pm: Shoppers wait in line to get into the mall.

 

The crowd this year was not as frenzied as last year.  Again, shoppers voiced their disappointment upon entering to find very few stores had opened at midnight.  Just as was the case last year, not one of the “anchor” department stores had opened early.  Even some of the old Black Friday standbys such as Radio Shack had their gates pulled shut. The midnight opening was for “select” stores. Others would open at 2am, and the entire mall would be open by 4am. At midnight, GameStop was a popular destination, but the shoe store only had a few people browsing.  The candle store was completely empty, but I don’t know many people who’d venture out at midnight to buy a candle.  Most of the people in the mall were around the booth set up by a local radio station, where disc jockeys were broadcasting live as they gave away prizes to mall customers who correctly answered trivia questions. While there were more people in the mall this year compared to last, there didn’t seem to be as many shoppers.  This year the mall seemed to be populated mostly by teenagers who were congregating near the entrance or the food court, but none of them were carrying shopping bags.  Maybe they were waiting for the candle store to start slashing prices.  I started to wonder were the real crowds were.

12:15 am: Lots of people, but not a lot of shopping at the mall.

 

After a short drive across the street, I found those crowds – at WalMart.  The parking lot was packed, which was to be expected.  My local WalMart never closed on Thursday, but instead stayed open and started some of their Black Friday sales at midnight.  The scene outside was hectic.  The line stretched down so far I could not see where it ended.  Police stood by metal stanchions as a female WalMart employee stood in the bucket of a crane (yes, a crane) and counted the number of people leaving the store.  As people left, she shouted out the number of people exiting so the police could allow that same number of people into the store.  Oddly enough, the people leaving the store weren’t pushing shopping carts overflowing with purchases, but instead were only carrying one or two items out of the store.  One woman left with only a blender. I hope she likes it, because I doubt I would have waited in line to have a woman in a crane tell me I can go inside a WalMart just to buy a blender.  I snapped a photograph of the line then tried to get a picture of the crane and stanchions, but a friendly police officer suggested that I “get in line or get out.”  I chose to get out.

12:35 am: WalMart looking more like a crime scene than a shopping destination.

 

Toys R Us is located in the same shopping center as WalMart, but there were so many cars trying to park in their lot, I gave up trying to see what was going on over there.  Instead, I drove around the block to another shopping center that has a Target and a Best Buy.  Because of the parking lot structure in that shopping center, I wasn’t able to get any photos, but I saw about 75 people waiting for Target to open (this was at 12:45 am and the store wouldn’t open for another three hours and fifteen minutes), many of them bundled up and sitting on lawn chairs.  The scene at Best Buy was similar, but there were about 150-200 people lined up to get into the big box retailer.  Again, many of them in lawn chairs – some were even in tents.

By 1am I was ready to go home.  I hadn’t bought a thing, but I observed that while more people appeared to have ventured out this year, fewer of them seemed to be buying anything.