SAN DIEGO, September 2, 2013 – It’s not clear who blinked first in the staredown between TV network CBS and cable provider Time Warner Cable after a month. However it happened, the companies ended their programming dispute on Monday. Broadcasts in ten affected cities resumed at 6 p.m ET, just in time for some baseball fans and many tennis fans in millions of homes in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles to enjoy Labor Day contests.
Due to a disagreement over how much Time Warner Cable would pay CBS in retransmission fees to air programming from CBS and CBS-owned channels including Showtime, CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel. Time Warner Cable blocked all of the programming on CBS stations in ten major cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit and Pittsburgh. It also blocked out programming on the cable networks to all Time Warner subscribers, including online access.
The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed. No one knows for certain what Time Warner Cable was paying CBS for its programming to begin with. Estimates were in the $1 per subscriber range. CBS was reported to be asking for $2 per subscriber. TWC had claimed CBS demanded a “600 percent increase,” but CBS says the claim was based on an incorrect calculation of the average fee taking very small markets into account.
It was expected the two sides would start talking again due the pressure created by the start of the NFL football season in mid-September. Live coverage of the final rounds ahead during the U.S. Open tennis tournament on CBS in New York was also considered a factor.
The blackout affected about 1.1 million of New York’s 7.4 million television households that get CBS. An estimated 1.3 million of 5.6 million households in Los Angeles were blacked out, along with 400,000 of Dallas’ 2.6 million TV homes, CBS said. Those are three of the nation’s five most populous television markets.
Many viewers found ways around the blackout. Some dropped Time Warner Cable in favor of satellite services. Some went old-school and adopted rabbit-ear antennas to get CBS signals over the air. Viewers in New York City subscribed to Aereo, a technology company that streams over-the-air broadcast signals in several cities. It offered a free month trial for TWC customers affected in New York. The normal monthly subscription fee is $8.
During the blackout, consumer groups, Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission called for Time Warner Cable and CBS to quickly settle their dispute. Time Warner and CBS played their public relations cards. CBS sent out news releases and ran commercials bragging about its d ratings despite the blackout, and urged Time Warner customers to complain.
Time Warner continued to tell its customers that CBS was being greedy and denying them the right to see their favorite programs. In the end, the viewers don’t care. It all seems too expensive to them, but they just wanted their baseball, “Under the Dome” and “Ray Donovan” back. As more TV viewers increasingly unplug from their sets and find transmission alternatives, these disputes will become more and more costly for the parties involved.
Mignon L. Clyburn, acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement saying media companies should “accept shared responsibility” for putting their audiences’ interests above other interests.
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 +
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