You want them to change the name? Hit the NFL in the wallet: boycott the Washington Redskins broadcasts #RedskinsPride

The management of the Washington Redskins has asked fans to tweet their #RedskinsPride to Sen. Harry Reid and tell him just what the team name means to them, as a PR campaign response to the letter from Reid and 49 other Democratic Senators who wrote letters last week to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him and the league to endorse a name change by the Redskins.

What could possibly go wrong? Twitter, that’s what. The hashtag was hijacked by an overwhelming majority of protestors who told Harry Reid exactly what the team name meant to them: racism. As I said in an earlier post,

It is troubling that owner Dan Snyder, a person who made his fortune in marketing and product positioning, can’t figure out how to position his organization better.

But venting on Twitter is not going to get the team owners to change their stance on changing the name. For them to do that, it has got to cost them more to keep the name than to change it. To get that to happen, you have got to Continue reading

Is cable dead? The problems with providers, competition, and access seem familiar.

Is cable dead? Respected technology writer Doc Searls thinks so. In his blogpost today he talks about the recent example of Al Jazeera restricting its online Al Jazeera English stream in the US when it began broadcasting its cable channel, Al Jazeera America, on August 20. Searls’ take is that Al Jazeera’s move to cable is a backwards one; he sees it as sacrificing the future for the past.

Cable may not be dead – yet. I think that Al Jazeera’s sacrificing a bit in the short term and playing the long game in order to have access to the American market. But what is interesting is Al Jazeera’s explanation for the move: “Due to copyright and distribution restrictions, not all viewers will be able to access all of our streaming video services.” It highlights the distinction between cable channel (content) and cable provider (access), and the power that providers currently have over what viewers can see.

Time Warner Cable, which owns CNN, immediately dropped Al Jazeera America from its lineup. (In other news, they have also blacked out CBS in several major markets during their fee negotiations but will undoubtedly reach an agreement before football season starts.) AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service said it wouldn’t carry Al Jazeera America because of a contract dispute.

The customers served by these providers have no choice in the matter. They can’t see Al Jazeera America – yet.

In almost all US markets there is a monopoly on the provision of cable services. Susan Crawford, a communications policy expert and a professor at the Cardozo School of Law, warns in her recent book “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age” that a handful of cable companies have become monopolies that stifle competition and innovation. Crawford compares the cable company structure to that of the 19th century railroad and steel monopolies, which faced minimal competition Continue reading