It's over: CBS and TWC end retrans blackout

Michelle Clancy | 03-09-2013

After exactly one month of a programming blackout that was costing it at least $3 million per day, CBS has ended its retransmission row with Time Warner Cable and restored programming to three million of the cableco's customers.

After a massive showdown that began back in June when the existing contract ran out, CBS' programming resumed at 6pm EST Monday, along with that of the Smithsonian Channel and Showtime. The companies didn't disclose specific terms of the deal, but TWC intimated that it wasn't the 600% increase to $2 per subscriber per month that CBS originally wanted.
"We're pleased to be able to restore CBS programming for our customers, and appreciate their patience and loyalty throughout the dispute," said Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, in a statement. "While we certainly didn't get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started."
Since 2 August, more than three million TWC customers in eight markets, including New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, have been unable to watch CBS and programming like Under the Dome and the Big Bang Theory. CBS, the No 1 broadcast network in the United States, hadn't had that much leverage in the dispute from a content perspective, but that was about to change with the 5 September kick-off of the American football season, which no doubt lent urgency to the situation. CBS' first NFL game is set to air on 8 September.
Many industry-watchers wondered if this dispute the most high-profile of retransmission throw-downs to date would have lasting consequences on the industry as a whole. Things would appear, however, to be business as usual. But Britt urged regulators to consider making changes to the 1992 retransmission consent rules. "We sincerely hope that policymakers heed that call and take action to prevent these unfortunate blackouts soon," he said.
The dispute has had some long-term effects for TWC: a class action lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding recompense for the money the plaintiffs paid for CBS and Showtime programming that wasn't delivered. And, Verizon claims that FiOS subscriptions spiked as much as 16% in New York as a result of the dispute.