Kable Town

Disclaimer: I love my Comcast service, I do shows for Comcast – a fine and generous company, I shop at WalMart, have owned a broken-down mini-van, admire the engine building involved with tractor pulls and may wind up in a double-wide trailer. Kabletown

Thanks to the miracle that is the DVR attached to my cable TV box, I was able to watch a recent episode of 30 Rock that I had missed. The episode sets the scene for the purchase of NBC by a Philadelphia-based cable operator called, “Kable Town” – but clearly intended to reference Comcast.

In one of the funnier bits of the episode, Tina Fey looks directly into the camera breaking the flow and the “video space” of the show to do a little brown-nosing and ingratiate herself with the new ownership saying, “It’s a fine and generous company.” I about died.

The episode got me to thinking a little bit about how momentous the proposed purchase of NBC by Comcast is, and how vastly different the cultures are between broadcasters and cable TV operators, or MSOs. This is a difference most people are not aware of, but among insiders, it’s been a long standing Hatfields and McCoys type of relationship.

Or actually – maybe its just one family divided along socio-economic lines. You know, one side of the family drives to the reunion in a Lexus with kids at Harvard, the other in a broken down mini-van just back from a tractor pull? But then it gets all turned upside down when the tractor-pull side of the family comes into money? Let the fun begin.

Anyway, the MSOs have always been looked upon as the “Brand X” players in television: Not as good, not as smart, not as upscale, not as urbane. MSOs were the WalMart crowd and the also-rans who played a distant second fiddle to the upper crusters in over-the-air broadcasting.

Of course, this was a bit of a sham since most of the broadcasters are sub-microcap companies that are viewed as little more than used car salesmen among those in the “real” business community. Most of the people in the industry don’t even get this, but broadcasters feeling better than MSOs is a bit like feeling superior because you’re in a double-wide. But I digress.

With the NBC/Comcast deal, if it goes, it will be interesting to see cable culture imposed on a long-standing bastion of broadcasting like NBC. Comcast’s programming efforts are decidedly low-rent, where they exist at all. MSOs that do run news operations do so on a shoestring, with many having gone by the wayside years ago – even Comcast’s flagship CN8 product.

So it’s clip on ties, short sleeved dress shirts, Chevy Cobalts and store brand soda pop for all. It will come as a real shock for anybody working at NBC, or one of the O&Os.