How long will the Time Warner vs. CBS/Showtime blackout last?

There is no pressure for an agreement during the August ratings slump. Things will change when the NFL season opening gets closer. Photo: CBS/Communities

SAN DIEGO, August 6, 2013 – The fee dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS isn’t making much progress toward a resolution.

CBS sent out a news release bragging about its weekend ratings in the affected cities and saying the “overall financial impact” of the blackout will be “negligible.” It’s not the kind of language from a company looking for resolution to the impasse.

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Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable made an offer to CBS via an open letter to network president Les Moonves late Monday to let TWC pay for the network “a la carte,” meaning customers would have to opt in for a set fee to receive CBS programming instead of getting it as part of their overall basic service. The letter also asks CBS to stop blocking programs on to Time Warner customers.

CBS called the proposal a shame, a “public relations vehicle” aimed at distracting from the real issues and an “empty gesture.”

All viewers want to know is when they’re getting their CBS and Showtime programs and local coverage back, and how much more it might cost them.

The timing is a key factor in this ongoing dispute. August ratings are traditionally low.  Time Warner decided to act now because customers aren’t missing any new fall series or NFL football and are busy with summer activities. So TWC isn’t feeling the heat from upset viewers about the blackout in big enough numbers to pressure the company to cave in to CBS/Showtime’s demands. 

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This will change significantly as the NFL season grows closer, and as the new fall TV series grows closer. CBS cannot afford to lose the 3.2 million customers blacked out, particularly in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Time Warner can’t afford to have customers turn elsewhere to get their pigskin fix. Football is still one of the biggest ratings drivers of television viewing.

Showtime is running original programming this summer, the well-received new series “Ray Donovan” and the final season of “Dexter.” TWC customers are out of luck here. They can’t access Showtime online as an alternative. Showtime is also losing out on promotion of its upcoming pay-per-view boxing event in September featuring Floyd Mayweather, part of its multi-million dollar deal with the fighter. CBS/Showtime is anxious to see big evenue from the upcoming bout.

For its part, CBS enjoyed healthy ratings growth this summer, fueled in part by its series “Under the Dome.” It can easily hold out through August. If the network is going to blink, it will be after Labor Day.

The reason we’re here: 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 Friday 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.

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

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)

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 current agreement between CBS and TWC expired in June. No known meetings or negotiations are scheduled.  

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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