Editor | 05-08-2013
Despite a warning as to what may happen if the issue isn't settled, the Time Warner Cable(TWC)/CBS retrans row has descended into what the latter's CEO Les Moonves has called "a war", with screens now blacked out.
Only days ago and as the two sides were sitting down to hammer out a deal, TWC had temporarily removed CBS content from its service offerings as the two sides failed to come to an agreement in a battle centred on a new fee structure for content. TWC insists that the fees CBS is looking for are unprecedented, unreasonable and unacceptable, while the content company described its new tariff as "fair compensation".
Once TWC restored the service on 30 July it was hoped that a deal was in the offing, but the two sides seem further away than ever. The bottom line is that TWC's current contract with CBS Television has now expired and has not been renewed.
Heaping blame on CBS for the failure to strike a deal, TWC CEO Glenn Britt commented: "Despite our continued efforts to reach agreement, CBS has been uncompromising – making demands that are completely inconsistent with the agreements we've reached with hundreds of other broadcasters. As a result ... we are no longer authorised to carry the CBS-owned broadcast affiliates, such as KCBS Los Angeles, WCBS New York, and KTVT Dallas, as well as other CBS-owned cable networks, such as Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian and CBS Primetime on Demand programming. We regret that CBS has put Time Warner Cable and, most importantly, our customers in this position."
Attempting to ratchet up the PR campaign against CBS by appealing to viewers, Britt added that the "skyrocketing" price of programming had a direct impact on customers' monthly cable bill. "If we paid CBS what they are asking, the next broadcaster or programmer would ask us – and others like FiOS, AT&T and DirecTV – for even higher prices next time. Cable TV bills would skyrocket. You'd be mad. We'd be mad. It won't end well for anyone. So, we have to take a tough stand in these negotiations and fight to hold down the price we all end up paying for programming and to carry on reasonable and customary terms ... the only people CBS is hurting are our viewers who love their shows."
Even as Britt appealed to CBS to return to the negotiating table and agree to a contract that is in the best interest of all parties, rival operators offered their support for TWC in its stance. Leading satellite provider DirecTV applauded TWC, accusing CBS of "punishing" viewers.
In a statement published by TWC, it said: "All pay-TV customers are feeling trapped and helpless as broadcasters expect them to absorb ridiculous rate increases for the exact same programming. In trying to protect our own customers, DirecTV has certainly had its share of these battles, so we applaud Time Warner Cable for fighting back against exorbitant programming cost increases. We are also appalled to learn that CBS is now punishing DirecTV customers, who may happen to have Time Warner as their Internet provider, by denying them access to CBS content online. The conduct of content companies in their efforts to extract outrageous fees from distributors and consumers may have reached a new low."