Cable Math

Derek Thompson with a nice piece on the economics of cable.  From what I have known about it, it has always struck me that unbundling would not be a good deal.  I suspect most people watch a lot more channels, at least some of the time, than they think they do:

Here’s the reality. If the cable bundle dissolves, buying the TV you love on-demand would probably be either much more expensive that you’d think … or much lower quality than you’d accept.

Let’s say for example that you just want to watch ESPN and otherwise be left alone. Right now, you pay $80 to cable every month, which passes along $5 to ESPN (per its agreement with its media company, Disney). So ESPN alone would cost $5 a month, right? That’s not so bad.

But wait. Remember, ESPN isn’t just getting $5 from every household that wants to watch it. It’s also getting $5 per from the millions of TV-watching households who don’t care for sports and just happen to have ESPN because they have cable. In our post-cable future, you might have to pay $10 a month to make up for all the households who choose to stop subsidizing your SportsCenter habit.

And we’re not finished yet. Most of ESPN’s revenue comes from advertising. Once you remove the tens of millions of homes who glance at ESPN every so often since it’s on the bundle, ratings will fall and ad revenue will follow. So now, ESPN Watcher, the price you have to pay to watch the same network you love has to cover all those lost homes and all that lost advertising. And that’s before we get into paying the cost of delivering the video in high quality to your HDTV or iPad, since it’s hardly cheap to house and stream hi-def to tens of millions of homes.

Upshot: If you were hoping that on-demand television could be as cheap as Netflix, consider that back of the envelope math would suggest ESPN would be significantly more expensive that Netflix, per month, on its own.

Yowza.  I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.  Yeah, I pay a lot now for cable, but as ABC used to say, “TV is Good.”

Much, mucho quick hits

So much to blog about, so little time:

1) Study shows taking a multivitamin a day reduces the risk of cancer for men. Not a ton, but clearly statistically and substantively significant amount.  Hooray– I’ve been doing this since I’ve been an adult.

2) Eugene Robinson on both candidates ignoring climate change.  Ezra Klein endorsed this as x1000.

Obama does acknowledge that his administration has invested in alternative energy technologies, such as wind and solar, that do not emit carbon dioxide and thus do not contribute to atmospheric warming. But he never really says why, except to say he will not “cede those jobs of the future” to nations such as China and Germany.

Romney, on the other hand, claims to pledge heart and soul to an idea that he, as a successful businessman, must know is ridiculous: “North America[n] energy independence.”

3) Jon Cohn on the (false) idea that Obama has not offered a governing vision.

4) Deserves it’s own post, but like I said, busy, busy. Friend of mine had a nice column in the N&O about the importance of Medicaid to helping her two sons with autism.  Romney’s proposed cuts to Medicaid are scandalous and a largely untold story in this election.

5) Drum says “Give Benghazi a Rest.”  Would really like to see some evidence on whether this really resonates with the electorate or if this is just a right-wing fever swamp obsession.

6) That said, John Dickerson writes about the smartest take on the politics of this whole Libya thing that I’ve read.

7) Really liked EJ Dionne’s take on the 2nd debate:

The most instructive contrast between Debate I and Debate II was the extent to which Romney’s ideas crumbled at the slightest contact with challenge. Romney and Paul Ryan are erecting a Potemkin village designed to survive only until the polls close on Nov. 6. They cannot say directly that they really believe in slashing taxes on the rich and backing away from so much of what government does because they know that neither idea will sell. So they offer soothing language to the middle class, photo ops at homeless programs to convey compassion and a steady stream of attacks on Obama, aimed at shifting all the attention his way.

For his part, Obama looks strong when he calmly and methodically confronts the exceptionally large philosophical and practical differences that now divide the parties. He looks weak when he fuzzes up those differences in the hope of avoiding conflict. The fight is often asymmetric because Obama speaks for balance — between tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, between a thriving market and an active government — while today’s conservatives have no interest in balance.

The Two Americas

Really like this Cohn piece:

We’ve come to think of “blue” and “red” states as political and cultural categories. The rift, though, goes much deeper than partisan differences of opinion. The borders of the United States contain two different forms of government, based on two different visions of the social contract. In blue America, state government costs more—and it spends more to ensure that everybody can pay for basic necessities such as food, housing, and health care. It invests more heavily in the long-term welfare of its population, with better-funded public schools, subsidized day care, and support for people with disabilities. In some cases, in fact, state lawmakers have decided that the social contract provided by the federal government is not generous enough. It was a blue state that first established universal health insurance and, today, it is a handful of blue states that offer paid family and medical leave.

In the red states, government is cheaper, which means the people who live there pay lower taxes. But they also get a lot less in return. The unemployment checks run out more quickly and the schools generally aren’t as good. Assistance with health care, child care, and housing is skimpier, if it exists at all. The result of this divergence is that one half of the country looks more and more like Scandinavia, while the other increasingly resembles a social Darwinist’s paradise.

Americans have been arguing over which system is morally and economically superior since the beginning of the republic. But every now and then, the worldviews have clashed and forced a reckoning. The 2012 election is one of those moments.

Photo of the day

Amazing series of photographs of birds as if they were human models.  Hard to believe he could accomplish this with living birds:

When Bob Croslin asked to take portraits of the feathered tenants at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida, the staffers in charge thought he wanted to snap a few pictures of birds through the bars of their cages. That was not what Croslin had in mind. Instead, he planned to photograph injured birds as he might human models, setting up on-location studio at the sanctuary.

Getting birds to pose in front of a backdrop under lights is a challenging task. It was a bit easier in this case because his models were accustomed to being visited by humans. Still, birds will be birds. The injured animals would often get nervous and poop on the backdrop. Or they would simply attack Croslin and the handlers.

But after four months, and many a beak injury, he’d managed to turn even the fiestiest red-tailed hawk into an elegant model. The end result is a collection that highlights each bird’s distinctive personality, just as Croslin might with human subjects.

Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbill.

Bob Croslin.

Taxes and self interest

I found it interesting in Tuesday’s debate that when Obama attacked Romney on his tax plan he also took the opportunity to attack Romney directly on the low rates he was paying.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t recall him doing that before.  And, for reason as Romney’s plan reduces rates on earned income whereas Romney’s personally low rates result from the fact that almost all his earnings are capital gains.  Anyway, I think this may actually be a particularly effective line of attack.  There’s some interesting political science research (and I’m drawing a complete blank on the authors) that shows if there’s one thing people hate about politicians it is using their office for personal gain.  So, even though Romney will not actually personally benefit from his tax plan, given his extreme wealth it is a very easy narrative to suggest that he will and to inject the idea of naked self-interest into his public policy preferences.   That’s certainly the sort of thing we should expect to turn voters away from him.

The Obama campaign seems to have left the NC airwaves to Romney at the moment, so I don’t really know what their advertising themes are at the moment, but I am curious as to whether this is something they are really pushing.

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