Jericho Rescued by Comcast? - But at What Cost...

Jericho may live on, but only for cable subscribers.

Not only does Comcast bring you all your favorite television programming over the cable-ways, they also make deals that could possibly save some of your favorite programming for additional life on the airways.

Much like the DirecTV / NBC deal that's resurrecting Friday Night Lights (FNL) for a third season, Comcast and CBS are in talks to bring Jericho back to viewers. This particular tidbit is provided by anonymous "insiders" and it makes for an interesting tidbit, but I'm not sure we can hold our breath on this one yet. It's too early to tell if these new business models are really going to pay off.

As an example of "these new business models", let me touch on the Friday Night Lights scenario. Apparently NBC got enough mini-footballs in the mail from FNL fans to consider a resurrection of sorts, and probably helped illuminate the way for the DirecTV - NBC deal being brokered.

The deal is this: NBC's deal with DirecTV would keep Friday Night Lights on the air for a third season, first airing on DirecTV, then later on in "repeats" on NBC. In turn, DirecTV helps defray production costs of the show for the right to air FNL first. This keeps the show afloat, and the reruns are then played over on NBC. Everyone wins... if this works out.

The premise that Comcast might rescue Jericho is a double-edged sword.

For Jericho fans like Vic, having it back on the air would be nice... if they bring all the original pieces back together. But Comcast has some detracting issues behind the scenes that worry me.

During a public FCC hearing in Boston regarding internet freedoms, Comcast bused in its own crowd of paid seat warmers, in an effort to keep vocal participants out of the meeting. Comcast for all its cleverness eventually fessed up to the dirty deed, after the fact and after the short term damage was done.

That deed got my collar up a bit, but then in mid 2007 Comcast decided that certain customers who used their high speed internet connection too much would be cut off or limited due to some unwritten bandwidth limit. Comcast claimed users who hoarded bandwidth ruined it for others.

Being caught in THAT cookie jar, Comcast has agreed to stop slowing down or blocking uploads on BitTorrent by the end of this year (why take so long to flip a switch Comcast?).

But wait, I'm not done - previously, HD quality programming was fed to the customer unabated, but earlier this month it's been reported that Comcast is compressing their HDTV transmission to make room for more channels.

More channels???? Oh goodie, more things to mindlessly flip past to get to Sci-Fi. The deal with compressing channels gets a little technical, but in a nutshell, Comcast allocated two HD channels per 38.8Mbps QAM, (QAM? Eh?) a QAM being a bandwidth type of transmission for one channel I think. To add more channels, Comcast is now squeezing three HD channels into each 38.8Mbps QAM, degrading the bandwidth for the three channels, and this will be applied to not only new channels but to existing channels as well.

Some of the channels that have added compression, grouped by QAM are (Discovery Channel, SciFi, USA), (Cinemax, HBO, TLC) to name a few.

The AV Science reference link has some image comparisons so you can see the differences these folks are reporting and seeing.

So my questions are many. From a company, Comcast, who is in some heated battles with other content providers, still had their profits climb by 54% in the 4th quarter of last year, or $602 million. *crickets* .. wow.

So why do we get zinged with poor quality product, with what I presume will be no discount for the degraded service so they can make a few million more?

Obviously in their fight to 'stay afloat' with competing business, they're looking at different avenues like the talks mentioned about Jericho, but at what cost to the viewer or subscriber? They obviously have interesting tactics ready to be deployed as their track record suggests, but when does it stop? When do we get a fair shake at the product we expect for what we pay for?

So at what cost do we get Jericho, if this deal happens? Fuzzier images, higher monthly rates and seat warmers to help you watch the show and boost the ratings for them.

OK, I'm done ranting.

[Homework assignment completed: Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is a method of combining two amplitude-modulated (AM) signals into a single channel. (Like that helped.) ]

Sources: NYTimes, Save The Internet,, DVice, AV Science, Detroit News

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