CBS, Showtime blacked out for Time Warner Cable customers in NY, LA

Why is this happening? As always, follow the money. Photo: Graphic: Gayle Falkenthal

SAN DIEGO, August 2, 2013 – Time Warner Cable customers in major cities across the U.S. are wondering where their favorite CBS and Showtime programs went Friday.

Due to the failure by CBS and the country’s second largest cable operator to reach an agreement on programming fees, TWC yanked the programming off the air at 5 p.m. ET in the cities where CBS owns the local television stations, known as “owned and operated” stations. This includes New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit and Pittsburgh. This also affects portions of New Hampshire Wisconsin, Ohio and Colorado.

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Showtime is off TWC across the entire United States. In its place, TWC is offering its customers the Starz movie network.

Instead of their expected programs, viewers saw a slide with a message from TWC, saying that CBS has “demanded an outrageous increase” in payments called retransmission fees for TWC’s right to carry its programs. TWC issued a statement on its website reading “We deeply regret being forced into this position by CBS, but we’re prepared to stand by our customers and do what it takes to fight these unreasonable demands.”

The specific channels affected are:

CBS TV stations in the following cities:
Los Angeles:  KCBS and KCAL-Ind.
New York:  WCBS
Dallas-Ft. Worth:  KTVT-CBS and KTXA-Ind.
Boston:  WBZ-CBS and WSBK-Ind. (carried in parts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts)
Chicago:  WBBM-CBS (carried in parts of Wisconsin)
Denver:  KCNC-CBS (carried in Gunnison and Telluride)
Detroit:  WKBD-CW (carried in parts of Ohio)
Pittsburgh:  KDKA-CBS and WPCW-CW (carried in parts of Ohio)

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Premium channels Showtime, The Movie Channel (TMC), Flix and the Smithsonian Channel are blacked out nationwide.

If your local CBS station isn’t listed, you will still be receiving your regular CBS programs.

The notice greeting Time Warner Cable customers on channels it has blacked out, including Showtime. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal

Most CBS and Showtime viewers are likely to be annoyed but not outraged. They will shrug and move on to “America’s Got Talent” or HBO. They will discover alternatives such as online delivery, or use it as the excuse to switch to another service.

But those who count on TWC to deliver specific sports programming on CBS and Showtime will start making noise. This noise will grow as the fall TV season approaches in another month, and especially when NFL season starts.

If the dispute isn’t settled by then, one side or the other will blink. The question is which one, and when.

So if you’re affected, what can you do? For viewers old enough to remember what this is, you can use an old-school rabbit-ear antenna to get CBS signals over the air. (Ask your grandma if you aren’t sure).

Viewers in New York City can also subscribe to Aereo, a technology company that streams over-the-air broadcast signals in several cities. It’s offering a free month trial for TWC affected in New York. The normal monthly subscription fee is $8.

The current agreement between CBS and TWC expired in June, but the two companies kept negotiating and pushing back the deadline. Earlier in the week, the deadline was being extended as little as one hour at a time, which irritated CBS officials.

A CBS statement issued today reads in part, “Throughout this process, Time Warner Cable has conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit … This is the first time in its history that CBS has been dropped from a cable system. Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, has a long history of taking channels off the air – more than 50 in the last five years alone. It has also chosen to drop Showtime, which is owned by CBS, a move that is completely unnecessary and totally punitive to its subscribers.

“What CBS seeks, and what we always have sought from the beginning, is fair compensation for the most-watched television network with the most popular content in the world. We will not accept less.”

While no one knows for certain what Time Warner Cable pays CBS for its programming, estimates are in the $1 per subscriber range.  CBS is reported to be asking for $2 per subscriber. TWC has claimed CBS wants a “600 percent increase,” but CBS says the claim is based on an incorrect calculation of the average fee taking very small markets into account.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves told network employees the popularity of CBS shows warrant the increase due to the number of viewers CBS delivers to TWC, and warned them of a “crucial struggle” ahead if CBS stations are pulled from TWC.

Approximately three million households are affected by the blackout. There is no word about any upcoming negotiations or resolution to the dispute.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities at Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story.   

Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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