In a market with just a few players, deals between the players should raise eyebrows. If Microsoft and Apple decided to collaborate on a new PC with Mac OS and Microsoft Office all built in, we would surely be wondering whether we were dealing with two competing companies or one enormous monopoly.
That doesn’t seem to happen with the mass media, no doubt in part because while the mass media can report skeptically about Microsoft and Apple, they cannot report skeptically about themselves. So what’s new in the media world?
A while back I blogged about the CW network, a joint venture of two of the big players, UPN (a part of CBS, recently split off from Viacom, which I didn’t realize at the time) and the WB network (Time Warner). Remember, CBS and Time Warner are competing companies. When I flip through the first two channels I can get, I have to choose between CBS on channel 3 and CNN, owned by Time Warner, on channel 4. So they’re competing, except that they collaborate on yet another station.
Now, not all former WB and UPN stations became CW stations, at least in part because some markets would end up with two CW stations, and guess who all of these new unaffiliated stations ran to for protection? Fox, which already occupies a low channel number in most places, decided it would create a second network, named MyNetwork. In Philadelphia, WB-17 mysteriously became My-PHL-17 recently. That is, the station changed its affiliation from Time Warner from News Corp (Fox). What’s particularly odd, however, is that WB-17 imports its news segments from… NBC-10.
So let me just think about this again. In Philadelphia, I’ve got CBS on channel 3, CNN (Time Warner) on channel 4 (via cable), Fox on 9, and NBC on 10. Then I’ve got My 17, which is Fox for programming (notably, different programming than on Fox itself, but ultimately managed by the same people) and NBC-10, again, for news. On top of it, I have CW-57, ultimately managed by the same people giving me CBS and CNN, again. Two companies, four stations. Virtually everywhere in the U.S.