I am not a DirecTV subscriber, so I really have no dog in the fight between the satellite cable provider and Fox. I live in an apartment, so I can't have a dish and my neighborhood is only wired for Comcast. Despite the lack of personal stakes, I've found the ongoing saga to be some pretty gripping stuff.
Let me give you a little background on the dispute. DirecTV, like all cable providers, comes to agreements with the networks (and their mega-corporation parent companies) to carry their content in exchange for a license fee. When these contracts expire, new ones must be negotiated and occasionally the negotiations get pretty tense. For example, last year DirecTV's competitor, Dish Network, failed to reach an agreement with Fox and subscribers temporarily went without channels like "FX, National Geographic Channel, Speed, Fuel TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, and the 19 Fox regional sports networks." If News Corp., Fox's parent company, is unable to reach and agreement with DirecTV, these same channels will go dark on November 1st.
The interesting thing about this most recent dispute between Fox and DirecTV is the way that both sides have decided to take the boardroom negotiations into the court of public opinion. Both sides have launched websites with corny names to plead their cases. On OurPromiseToYou.com, DirecTV CEO Mike White points the finger at Fox, claiming the network is demanding a 40% increase in license fees. "Our CEO is fighting for you," the website boasts. A video from Mike White automatically plays when you enter OurPromiseToYou.com, but -- unless I missed something -- there wasn't a specific promise made to customers. However the site does feature some testimonials from DirecTV subscribers. "I totally agree with your stance. Hang tough. If worst comes to worst, I can live without Fox," says Bruce Stambaugh. "In the past we have had cable and Dish and some other company in San Diego but only Direct TV follows through with their customer service and helps us in many ways," chimes in Bookpusher. "Hang tough Direct TV I am glad you are in my corner." Oddly, DirecTV customers seem to love the phrase "hang tough," weird.
Fox's KeepMyNets.com also has automatic video running. It disputes DirecTV's claims about unfair fee increases, saying that Fox proposed to keep the "same price" and "same terms" after the contract expiration on October 31st while the two sides hash out the details of a new agreement. "Unfotunately, DirecTV said no," says the Fox spokesman. He goes on to accuse the satellite carrier of "bad faith tactics" and float the possibility that customers could lose not only the channels mentioned earlier but the Fox broadcast network itself.
While the talking heads on KeepMyNets and OurPromiseToYou duke it out in typical corporate fashion, the real fireworks are happening on a third website. In an attempt to drum up fan support, Fox enlisted the help of Sons Of Anarchy creator/show-runner Kurt Sutter. Aside from being in charge of a kick-ass show and being married to Katey Sagal, Sutter has become famous for his gloriously foul-mouthed, bombastic commentary on Twitter and his blog, SutterInk.blogspot.com.
In typical Kurt Sutter fashion, he lashes out angrily at his perceived foe on his blog. He addresses fans in a relatively subdued (by Sutter standards) advertisement he filmed to air during Sons Of Anarchy: "I just did a promo that will air before Tuesday night's episode. Its aim is to mobilize fans against DirecTV. But they refused to let me speak honestly, I had to follow an FX legal script that felt like complete bullshit. I'm sure it will serve its purpose, but I feel compelled to let SOA fans know what I WANTED to say," he says. Never one to be censored, Sutter used the freedom of the Internet to give his raw, uncut argument against DirecTV's position. He accuses the company of "f--king over the customers that already pay a lot of money for their service." He goes on to say, "They're running ads with their corporate shill telling you how much "they care about your business"; that dude's got one sincere hand on his heart while the other greases your unsuspecting backside. Because they're about to flip you over and f--k you up the ass until you bleed." Sutter's script ends poetically with, "Thanks for the support, bitches."