Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


July 19, 2013

In the latest showdown between a broadcaster and a cable system, CBS has initiated an ad campaign to try to pressure Time Warner Cable to make a deal on fees for three of its major stations, with the implied threat that Time Warner subscribers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas will otherwise lose access to CBS shows, starting next week.

That would mean that viewers in those cities involved in such ongoing summer shows as "Under the Dome" and "Big Brother" would not be able to see them if they were subscribers to Time Warner Cable. In addition, the CBS-owned cable network Showtime would probably also go off the air on the systems in those cities, leaving fans of shows like "Ray Donovan" without a way to see the initial showing of new episodes.

CBS executives charged that Time Warner Cable has refused its request to extend the current contract between the parties, precipitating the confrontation. The contract ended in June, and the two sides did agree to an extension that will end next Wednesday. None of the financial terms of the dispute have been disclosed.

CBS's plan is to create pressure on Time Warner Cable by inciting its subscribers to complain about the prospect of losing CBS programs, and suggesting ways those subscribers can find alternate options to find CBS shows "on Time Warner Cable's competitors," as CBS put it in a statement.

The CBS statement also said, "Time Warner Cable is planning to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won't negotiate the same sort of deal that all other cable, satellite and telco companies have struck with CBS. Time Warner Cable has dropped nearly 50 channels in the last five years. CBS has never been dropped by a cable company before. CBS remains committed to working towards a mutually agreeable contract."

The move is similar to previous examples of brinkmanship exercised by networks in the midst of a negotiating impasse with a cable company. In several previous instances, cable companies have gone to the point of allowing networks to be blocked on their systems, precipitating outraged complaints from subscribers.

In general, the networks have had the leverage in these disputes because they have programs viewers want to see and those viewers are paying cable companies for the right to watch television.

But cable outlets have shown increasing resistance to demands from network for higher fees for what is known as retransmission consent. Cable companies must gain permission from stations to retransmit the broadcast signal to their subscribers. The fees, once modest, have grown in recent years and CBS has been among the most aggressive of the networks in seeking sizable increases. - New York Times


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