Michelle Clancy | 29-08-2013
The US FCC has said that it is working towards resolving the protracted fee dispute between CBS and Time Warner that has resulted in a CBS blackout for three million TWC subscribers since 2 August.
"The commission is engaged at the highest levels with the respective parties and is working to bring the impasse to an end," Justin Cole, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "We urge all parties to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so consumers can access the programming they rely on and are paying for."
In total, viewers in the affected markets account for about three million TWC subs or 25% of TWC's base. 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."
The NFL begins its season on 5 September, with the first CBS games airing on 8 September. That's a monolithic deadline for TWC. Disgruntled subscribers are already making noise in other ways, churning to Verizon FiOS (the telco said subscriptions were up 16% in the New York City area) and 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.
"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.