As you can imagine both Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports San Diego have been getting their share of angry emails from TWC customers who want to watch the Padres but can't. With the season starting this month there was a bump in complaint letters. Instead of the usual email response, FSSD's Senior Vice President Henry Ford decided to explain their position in person, at a Padres game, in the Fox Sports Suite. They rounded up 50 TWC customers who had complained recently and invited them down to the ballpark for two games against the Dodgers.
FSSD let us know that the first of the meetings on Wednesday was productive and went well. Jon and I were already attending Thursday's game and sitting in the Toyota Terrace level a section away from their suite. I asked if it would be alright if we just poked our heads inside for an inning to watch some of the fireworks between FSSD leadership and TWC customers. If the sh_t hit the fan, maybe we could moderate.
We entered around the second inning. We wanted to be fashionably late and not impose on the invited guests but still get there earlier enough that some fans might still be irate. We entered and everybody was as cool as cucumbers. I did a quick survey of the room, to see if there were any signs of struggle. There was no overturned furniture, no splattered ketchup on the walls and no hot dog stains on the couch.
Most of the fans were sitting in the outdoor seats. Others had said their piece and gone down to seats closer to the field. Others who had stayed lingered inside, eating and drinking. I think we missed most of the discussion. I asked around to get a recap.
Thursday was the day Bill Center wrote that it was unlikely Time Warner would pick up FSSD for the 2013 season.
On Thursday, a Fox official said he doubted Padres games would be carried on Time Warner Cable this season. The same source a year ago predicted Time Warner Cable would not broadcast Padres games during the 2012 season, which ended up being the case.
This might be a tough pill to swallow for TWC customers, but sometimes it's better to take your medicine. I look at this way. It's better that they don't get their hopes up. Henry Ford told us that a dispute like this one going on for this long is highly unusual in the cable business. In most cases customers would usually just hang tight and wait for the two parties to work out their differences. In this case, no progress is being made. TWC customers need to know that if they do want to watch the Padres this season they will need to switch providers.
Now that Cox, AT&T, Dish and Direct TV all carry the Padres, I asked what was the major hold up for those still on TWC. To me, if you go to the trouble to write a complaint letter to FSSD, you'd also be the type to take action and switch. I was told that some customers don't want to go through what they perceive to be the hassle of switching if they think the two sides will eventually settle. Others have smaller issues that are still important to them. For instance, a few people use Time Warner's email service and if they cancel their service they'll lose their email address. For most, it'd be easy to switch to GMail but if you're an older citizen, that might seem like a big obstacle.
FSSD explained to everyone that they were charging the market price for their programming. Four other carriers paid the same price they are asking of TWC. That's what makes it the market price. TWC is spending butt loads (my word not theirs) of money on Lakers programming but won't pay the going rate on the Padres. The TWC customers all seemed very appreciative that FSSD took the time to listen to them. One lady was funny, she was really thankful but also embarrassed by her husband who she says emails everybody. He left her alone in the suite while he went down to better seats. It cracked me up.
Jon and I ended up overstaying our welcome a bit. Midway through the game, Fox Sports Sideline Reporter Laura Mckeeman came up to the booth with her boyfriend Josh Rutledge. As you may know he's a
pitcher shortstop for the Rockies and had come in that night for the next day's series. They are both really pretty people. With them in the suite, I finally felt comfortable, like I belonged. Now everyone wouldn't just be staring at me.
Laura went back to work and left Josh behind. He's thoughtful, soft spoken and boyishly handsome. He reminds me of myself. I peppered him with questions. Who's the toughest out on the Padres? Alexi Amarista. We watched the brawl together, I asked if he'd ever been in one. He fought one in AAA, but it didn't compare in size or scope. I told him that guys like us need to protect our faces. I asked him if he wanted me to follow him on Twitter. He didn't seem to care either way but I did.
Realizing that we had stayed way longer than our one inning Jon and I said our goodbyes and excused ourselves. Upon leaving we both realized we had been thinking the same thing the last few innings. We instinctively thought to offer our leather bound seats to Rutledge, but didn't because we thought we might be able exhaust his legs by making him stand the entire time. Go Padres!