Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sports Glummery: Goodbye To Professional Sports Teams Like Dem Dodgers Bums Doesn’t Mean Riddance To Paying For Them, Now Says The Times

It’s front page news today. . .

Many bemoan the Dodgers unceremoniously departure from Brooklyn, New York back in 1957, but the New York Times tells us that due to an impending deal with Time Warner Cable the company's subscribers in Southern California are going to be paying “between $4 and $5 a month” more even if they don’t watch the Dodgers.  And because Time Warner Cable won’t be able to charge enough to cover the entire cost of the Dodgers deal it is very possible non-sports watchers may see a degradation of the quality of the rest of their cable service as Time Warner figures out how to absorb the shortfall it will be swallowing.

The Times didn’t say that New Yorkers will themselves see a rise in cable prices due to the Dodgers deal, only that New Yorkers (along with Los Angeleans) are already in some cases paying a “$2 to $3 monthly surcharge” to pay for “regional sports networks.”  Since I expect Dodgers games will sometimes be played on New York channels I bet the cost somehow factors in to what is paid although I couldn’t discern from the Times article for certain that either the existing arrangement or the impending deal means that New Yorkers pay much for Dodgers team games they don’t watch, only that they pay a lot, in general, for professional sports games even when they are not watching them.

One piece of good news reported in the article is that, “Verizon FiOS, perhaps testing the waters, announced a sports-free package of channels this week that is $15 cheaper than a similar package with sports.”

The New York Times has now caught up with and put on its front page something Noticing New York was writing about last July: how those of us who don’t watch and otherwise shun having anything to do with professional sports are paying a lot for them anyway in our cable TV subscription packages.  The Times article is here: Rising TV Fees Mean All Viewers Pay to Keep Sports Fans Happy, by Brian Stelter, January 25, 2013.

Noticing New York’s article in July, which went into more detail about what options (or the lack thereof) New York City residents have to try to avoid the extra amounts they are having to pay for sports they don’t watch (and may actually consider not all that great to have around in other ways), is here: Monday, July 9, 2012, More Sports Glummery.

The topic of the Times article and my earlier Noticing New York article is variation on a theme that I made the subject of independent research I did with my professor (Charlotte Price) when I was studying economics at Sarah Lawrence: how and when it can become possible for people to wind up paying for and buying things they don’t want.  It’s sort of a challenging set of propositions that run counter to the standard expectations and intuitions that generally ensue from and accompany normal economic theorems.

This is what the Times said in its article today sounding like the subject that drew me to research it back then:
For the most part, all of these networks are requirements, not options for cable customers. (Some distributors charge extra for packages of sports channels for die-hard fans, but the big networks remain in the packages that most customers get.) [Even though the Times says Dodgers games ] . . . were lucky to garner 100,000 viewers on any given day.

    * * * *

“The cable industry has done everything it can to bundle programming and force consumers to buy things they don’t want,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer.
When I was trying to figure out these paradoxes of people paying for what they did not want back at Sarah Lawrence I kept coming back to models that involved collective decision-making and found myself often getting into the realm of political decision-making.   This was when my professor assisted me by introducing me to the work of Kenneth Arrow.

As for non-sports fans being forced to pay for that which they are not fans of, when politics and their manipulation come into play in decision-making, the examples of what results are probably all the more extreme.  That’s when you get the example of the so-called “Barclays” arena where every non-sports loving New Yorker is being forced to pick up the costs of subsidizing tickets for every game to the tune of perhaps $20.00 a seat every game.  A couple of games can easily come to $700,000.00 and there are many more games than that.  And then we have the hoggish Yankee Stadium to pay for too.  The list, of course, goes on.

Still the Times has been cheering the arrival of the “Barclays” arena without pointing out that many, many New Yorkers don't want to pay those extra taxes they are being forced to pay to heftily subsidize it.

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