CBS Comes Out Swinging Against Time Warner Cable in Contract Fight

Programmer warns cable customers in ad campaign that CBS stations could go dark on July 24 if the two sides can't reach a deal

CBS starting Thursday is launching a TV ad campaign warning Time Warner Cable customers that the operator is “threatening to hold your favorite TV shows hostage and drop CBS,” after the two sides have failed to come to terms on a programming deal.

The two companies’ prior agreement from 2008 expired June 30, but they extended it temporarily while talks continued through July 24. If CBS and TWC can’t reach a deal for the Eye’s owned-and-operated local TV stations — with the three biggest WCBS-TV New York, KCBS-TV Los Angeles and KTVT-TV in Dallas-Ft. Worth — the programming could go dark on the MSO’s systems.

According to Time Warner Cable, CBS is demanding the cable company pay over 600% more than the MSO pays in other areas of the country for the same programming.

“It’s unreasonable to expect our subscribers and Time Warner Cable to pay that price and we are negotiating very hard for a reasonable price. This is not a standard debate over price increases. This is different,” Time Warner Cable said. “We’re going to continue to negotiate and hope to come to a reasonable resolution before our deadline, so that our customers don’t have to endure yet another broadcaster blackout.”

Also on the table are carriage terms for cablers including Showtime Networks and Smithsonian Channel, but according to a source familiar with the talks those deals could be done separately from the TV stations.

Now CBS is taking the fight public.

“Time Warner Cable is planning to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won’t negotiate the same sort of deal that all other cable, satellite and telco companies have struck with CBS,” the Eye said in a statement.

CBS is starting to air the TV ads on its stations in markets including New York and L.A. starting Thursday evening. In addition, the company will run newspaper ads in the coming days. The ads direct TW Cable customers to KeepCBS.com, which urges them to “tell Time Warner Cable that you don’t want to lose CBS” through a submission form or toll-free  number.

According to CBS, the network has never been dropped by a cable operator. The company said it has successfully reached deals with every other major distributor, including Comcast, Cablevision, Charter, DirecTV, AT&T and Verizon.

Time Warner Cable claimed that pay TV customers have been affected by “84 broadcaster blackouts in the past 18 months.”

CBS, for its part, alleged that Time Warner Cable has dropped nearly 50 channels in five years during fee disputes with stations including ABC, Fox and NBC affiliates.

Nationwide, Time Warner Cable had 11.9 million video customers at the end of March. It’s the fourth-biggest pay TV provider in the U.S. after Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network.

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  1. Alison says:

    I am so not happy with dish I feel like they keep taking chanel and the price go up dish is not looking out for the customer

  2. Thomas Rawlings jr says:

    Keep cbs I love the Ravens all day long and blue

  3. sharon ginda says:

    Verizon here we come !

  4. Quigley Spargus says:

    First – lets be clear, the cable operator NEVER drops a broadcast signal – it is the decision of the broadcaster to do so. Second, CBS has never pulled the signal in a dispute with a cable company – some affiliate station groups have done so in the past but not CBS Network. Third, as consumers you are aware that any fee the broadcasters are able to collect amounts to nothing more that double taxation right? After all, we tax payers have given the spectrum necessary for the broadcaster to exist in exchange for the public service it is they are to provide. How’s that for an ol’ switch-er-roo? Free spectrum, public service, all for the low low price of a 600% increase in a TV Tax that is sanctioned by your federal government and congress. I don’t work for a cable company – simply an informed activist for common sense. Let your representatives on capitol hill know you are fed up with this insanity – you want your public service broadcasters free as they once were and as they should be!

  5. Nick F. says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous. To be honest TWC always gave me trouble when I had them in the past! If it wasn’t the price going up it was my programming going down, and it looks like they are still on that same path! If they lose CBS that’s gonna be a huge loss for their company. Things are not looking too good for them.
    Switch to DirecTv!

  6. Kermit Plowman says:

    If Time Warner drops Ranger baseball on channel 21 then we will IMEDIATELY drop Time Warner Cable and sign up with a carrier that carries them on free programming.

  7. Rudy Perez says:

    Corporate greed again at its best yeah it’s time to drop Time Warner.

  8. This Hippo thinks there are too many VULTURES around the dinner table.

  9. Joseph Gonzalez says:

    Perhaps both sides should negotiate in good faith. Maybe we should go back to the days of analog?

  10. Audie H. says:

    TWC are you totally out of your minds by taking off one of the best stations on TV?? I’m sure as in the past, people will go crazy and chances are will drop you and go on to bigger and better things like verizon, Hope that you can afford it. Please use your heads instead of your corporate greed.

  11. Larry B says:

    Not really into CBS

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