A Lifetime Cable Contract?

Some Pay for a TV Service That They Didn’t Choose

With new subscribers harder for companies to find, more consumers like Mr. Teitelbaum are being locked into compulsory plans. Among the hottest battlegrounds now for customers in the pay television market are planned communities sprouting up across the Sun Belt and apartments and other multi-unit housing blocks in big cities – basically any development where a homeowners’ association or management company charges residents for property upkeep, security and the like.

Cable and satellite providers, of course, love striking these bulk subscriber deals because with one contract they can capture hundreds and sometimes thousands of customers who generate a steady stream of fees for years.

Developers, condo boards and property associations like the deals, too, because they need to work with only one television provider and because the deals can offer homeowners significant discounts for their cable service.

And, on a personal note, I guess I have to choose which of the two categories I fit in here — says something about the industry that visceral hatred doesn’t seem to be on the radar:

“Everyone who is going to pay for TV already pays for it,” said Todd Mitchell, an industry analyst at Kaufman Brothers Equity Research. “The only people without it are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it.”

Piracy, For Real

Visiting the Pirate’s Lair

[T]here are two types of expatriates in Shanghai: Those who work for multinational corporations and those who don’t. The former enjoy plush “expat packages,” which include humongous salaries, chauffeurs, maids, and villas in Pudong. The latter pursue creative or “deadbeat” jobs while nurturing entrepreneurial fantasies. What everyone seems to have in common—expats and natives alike—is a penchant for collecting pirated DVDs.

One of the expats at our table had amassed 200. Another, 400. All looked at me funny when I asked whether anyone had any moral or legal qualms about this. Later, in Beijing, when I asked the same question of a business-school professor, the head of a trade organization, and two CEOs—the sorts of serious people, who, in the U.S., might become apoplectic about, say, file-sharing—I saw the same quizzical look, with one of the CEOs adding that having to spend more than $2 for a DVD or $10 for Windows XP was an outrage. At Sasha’s, the expats explained that buying real DVDs wasn’t an option, especially for the Chinese, because real DVDs cost 10 times more and weren’t even available. (The TV producer claimed she knew of a store that carried them, but the others disputed this.) Fake DVDs, moreover, often were real DVDs: The same factories that produced and shipped real ones during the day produced and shipped fake ones at night.

[…] This, of course, reveals one of the two fallacies in the media industry’s assertion that file-sharing and DVD piracy are the same as “stealing”: Some of the supposed damages from “lost sales” would never have been sales in the first place. The other fallacy is that the “theft” of digital property is the same as the theft of physical property—which it isn’t. When someone steals a physical product—a car, say, or a DVD from the shelves of Blockbuster—the owner has lost more than a potential sale; he or she has lost inventory. When someone buys a copy of a digital product, however, for which the owner of the copyright has paid nothing, the owner has lost only a potential sale. This doesn’t make file-sharing or DVD piracy OK—there must be some way for producers and packagers to get paid—but it does explain, in part, why millions of people who would never shoplift are so eager to collect pirated DVDs.