Winston Lawrence

Project Manager & Occasional developer

Fox, My 9 – Cablevision’s Business as usual Model

Cablevision says were sorry - probably not sorry enough to reduce your cable bill though.

If you are a Cablevision customer then your video is showing the images above instead of whatever show you were expecting to watch (or record) on FOX and MY 9. Reminiscent of the Oscars a few months ago right? Of course the backstory could be exactly what Cablevision says it is. As a Cablevision customer though I say "who cares?"

Between the Dolan family affair and the Murdoch empire I find it hard to tell them apart anyway. The only one losing out is of course us (the customers) and neither one of those two sides are going to care about that since we can't do anything about it.

Update: At this point we are going into the fourth day with the channels out. Of course when this happened earlier this year WABC picked the Oscars to pull the plug. Cablevision quickly realized this was a fight it was not going to win because they were going really going up against Disney and all of the Disney properties and movies. So, Cablevision blinked and we got the Oscars back on the air (I was pulling it down from an internet feed anyway so I didn't notice). With FOX however, Cablevision apparently think they have a more winnable fight on their hands. I don't think it's quite that easy myself with digital tv now here, the over-the-air stations like FOX can give an excellent signal to most of their customers who really do not need the cable feed. It's folks like me that are too far out to get a decent OTA signal that rely on cable for the local stations. I am going to reconnect my roof antenna and see just what kind of a signal I do get these days. 

Cablevision tends to follow the "Alice in Wonderland" framework for advertising and service as many customers can attest:

"When _I_ use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone,"it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." -     Through the looking glass - Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll

  Fox and My 9 are just the latest (and highest visibility) of channels that have gone missing at Cablevision over the last few months.  I have recently spent a considerable amount of time trying to track down why several HD channels just seemed to have disappeared even though my Cablevision bill stated they were part of the IO digital service for which I was paying $11.95 per month.

I opened up my Cablevision bill the other day and for some reason actually read the insert. What caught my eye in the Rates and Packages section was the fact that six HD channels that had disappeared a few weeks ago were actually still part of my $11.95 add-on "IO DIGITAL" package so I called customer service.

After getting about four levels deep into the automated call system - I just kept hitting #0 until the system gave up and transferred me to a live attendant queue. That was another 10 minute wait due to "Unexpected High Call Volume". After verifying my address, my identity and presumably that my account wasn't flagged "deadbeat" Terri, the support rep and I got down to business.

"Okay, I was reading my Cablevision Bill and about half a dozen channels that I can't get are listed as being a part of my IO DIGITAL package so how do I get them back?"

"Let me take a look at your account Mr. Lawrence" Terri said "Those channels do appear to be a part of your package Mr. Lawrence are you having any other problems besides those missing channels?"

"Not really - the channels disappeared a few weeks ago - I assumed you guys were moving the stations around but now that I've checked, the INFO button on my TIVO shows the channels as active. The current program detail is displayed but the actual channel just shows searching for channel on cable in"

"Okay Mr. Lawrence you should be receiving those channels. Would you like to schedule a technician visit?"


"Would Friday, the 24th between 11am and 2pm be okay?"

"Yes, that's fine"

"Okay, Cablevision will call before the visit to verify. Is there anything else that I can help you with today Mr. Lawrence?"

"No, that will cover it. Thank You."

"Have a good day"

At this point the Customer Service rep agrees that the channels are missing and schedules the technician service call

     Steve, the cable tech called and showed up an hour earlier than than the appointment which was great. We went through the setup. 
I had a Tivo. I wasn't using the Tuning Adapter (another tale). Steve verified with his notes that I had the IO digital package and that my channels were part of the package then he called his dispatcher who brought in a supervisor to verify that the channels were part of the package and that the Tuning Adapter was not required to see them.

    Steve then ran a new cable from the back of the Tivo down through my floor (access panel under my carpet) to the basement and the incoming cable line from outside of the house (I don't have a cable modem). No joy, the replacement cable did not make a difference and the missing channels were still MIA.

    Steve went outside of the house and checked the cable line itself - he said the tests showed the line signal was good - but still no joy on the missing channels. Steve then went down to the cable box and he swapped out a 'filter/trap' that was corroded - the picture on one channel that was generally unwatchable because it was nothing but blocks of color improved to where it was actually quite good for a non HD station.

    Unfortunately the missing channels were still MIA. At this point Steve said that the only thing he couldn't test was the MultiStream Cablecard itself because he didn't have any with him. He said that he would come back the next day or day after with a card to test that option if that was okay with me. I said that it was and Steve left.

   The weekend came and went and not surprisingly no Steve, no Mulistream cablecard and no resolution to the problem.

   I called Customer service. After about twenty minutes getting through the Voice Response and client queue system "Unexpected High Volume of Calls" I got to talk to John.

"..So Steve never came back and that's whay I'm calling - do you see the record of his visit on Friday on my account?"

"Yes I do Mr. Lawrence and I Apologize for the inconvenience. I don't see any request for a replacement Cablecard or a new visit in your account"

"Great, I'm not exactly surprised"

"I can go ahead and schedule that visit for you or you can pick up the Multistream Cablecard at the Cablevision store - it is customer self installable now".

"Well that's a change - what are the Port Jefferson Store hours and do they have the Cablecard in stock?"

"Let me check that for you Mr. Lawrence. The store is open from 6:30am until 6:00pm and they have several Multistream Cablecards showing in their inventory."

"Thanks - I'll pick it up myself then"

"Okay, is there anything else that I can help you with today Mr Lawrence?"

"No, thank you that was it."

"Have a good day then"

I showed up at the Cablevision  Store 15 minutes after they opened, I was the ONLY one there which was amazing as every other time that I have gone there, there was an 10 to 15 minute wait behind a long winding line of customers.

The Sales rep, Tracy immediately disavowed any knowledge of Cablecards being in the store. Once I pointed out that the Customer Service on the phone the night before said that they were in the store and that there were several of them in inventory.

Tracy then could not find the "key" to open the box or how to fill-out the form to exchange my Cablecard for a replacement  - after about 20 minutes a Supervisor came over to 'help' Tracy figure out how to give me the replacement card.

I did eventually leave the store after nearly 30 minutes after entering, with my replacement Cablecard.

                          "What I tell you three times is true."
                                -The Hunting of the Snark

                 - Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll

The card installation was pretty easy - just plug it in and wait for it to refresh and upgrade its firmware,
After a few minutes it displayed a screen:
To display copy protected content call Customer service and report
Cablecard ID: 001-102-694-049-1
HostbId: 035-012-069-622-3
Customer Service Number:
Not very customer friendly but i called the number and that's when things got interesting.

Michael,  the tech support person on the other end of the line guy listened through my story of why I was now installing this Cablecard and went through a number of the same scenarios that I was now becoming quite familiar with - try different channels etc.

After verifying with his Supervisor that I didnt need a tuning adapter and after his second or third "let me put you on hold" conference with a  supervisor he came back with "You are not supposed to be getting those channels."

Nothing that I could say in-spite of having a printed Cablevision bill in front of me (which they verified the wording and contents once I gave them the form number) would make a difference.

The Cablevision reps now insisted that I no longer get those channels and they had no idea why four or five other customer support people, the folks in the Cablevision Store, the  onsite technician, two dispatchers or indeed Michael the customer support person who took the current call could not have determined that the packages were no longer included a part of the IO Digital service. 

So, at this point Cablevision literature and bills indicate that I get and am paying for the service which includes the missing channels, but no matter what it says in writing or what Cablevision says in its ads. If I want to get those "free" HD channels back the price has gone up to AN ADDITIONAL $59.95 per month for family service.

Of course Cablevision can define the word "free" to mean whatever it likes but there are other definitions that one might think of applying to its customer service approach and business model.

From Wikipedia:

In retail sales, a bait-and-switch is a form of fraud in which the party putting forth the fraud lures in customers by advertising a product or service at a low price or with many features, then reveals to potential customers that the advertised good is not available at the original price or the list of assumed features is different. This use of this term has extended to similar situations outside of the marketing sense.

Winston Lawrence

If you didn't think this article was worth a nickel then send two cents :-)
It's all good and its all very much appreciated!!   Donations and subscriptions gratefully accepted