Michelle Clancy | 20-08-2013
Apparently, Time Warner Cable's customers aren't sticking around to see what the outcome will be in the cableco's nasty retransmission-fee showdown with CBS, which has resulted in the broadcaster pulling its feeds from TWC channel line-ups in New York City, DFW and Los Angeles. The New York Daily News reported that Verizon FiOS subscriptions are already up as much as 16% in New York.
"Since Time Warner cut the cord on CBS (on 2 August), it's been a boom town time for (FiOS)," a cable executive told the Daily News.
That may be, but an even bigger gold-strike could await if the issue isn't resolved by the time football season starts. "D-Day is (NFL season opening day) 8 September," the source said. "Nothing gets people motivated like missing out on major sporting events."
It could be bad for the cableco: in total, viewers in the affected markets account for about three million TWC subs or 25% of TWC's base.
Meanwhile, disgruntled subscribers are already making noise in other ways, filing a class-action lawsuit against TWC for breach of contract. The lead plaintiffs say they should be compensated for each day they pay for a subscription without access to popular CBS programming like the new hit Under the Dome, NCIS and the Big Bang Theory, along with premium cable network Showtime, the CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel.
A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by lead plaintiffs James Armstrong, Michael Pourtemour and Vatsana Bilavarn is seeking an unspecified reimbursement for subscription fees paid during the blackout.
"The courtesy replacement programming," reads the suit, "is not a reasonable substitute for programing blacked out, as it does not include a fungible offering of programmes relative to CBS and Showtime."
The suit claims breach of contract, unjust enrichment and violations of California's business and professions code.
TWC, the No 2 cable operator in the US, said that CBS is asking for a 600% increase to carry its programming. "We are willing to pay for CBS, and we have offered them significant fees," Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff told CNN Money. "But their current demands don't represent a good value for our customers."