CBS Uses Radio Heft Time Warner

Outlets give Eye a local edge to make its case to consumers

CBS and Time Warner Cable are waging a public war of words in a retrans dispute that threatens to knock 13 Eye-owned TV stations off TW Cable systems in eight major markets.

Both sides have taken to their own air to make their case to viewers with breathless PSA-style spots warning of a potential shutoff. But CBS is bolstered by another potent weapon in this fight: multiple top-tier radio stations in the three markets — New York, L.A. and Dallas — most affected by the contract wrangle. And those stations have added the spots on heavy rotation, judging from a quick survey of the L.A. dial on Friday morning.

The stations allow CBS to extend the reach of its “blame Time Warner Cable” message in an efficient and highly localized format. The Eye can run the gamut of demographics with its fleet of stations that include heavyweights such as Gotham’s WFAN (Sports), WINS (news), WCBS (oldies) and L.A.’s KNX (news), KRTH (oldies) and KROQ (alternative rock). The news and sports talk outlets in particular would seem to reach the kind of viewers who might be inclined to fire off an angry email or sign an online petition.

CBS has stations in most of the other cities affected by the dispute — a list that includes Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh — but TW Cable is not the dominant cable provider in those markets so the Eye has opted not to do a PR blitz in those areas. CBS owns a total of 126 radio stations, most of them strong outlets in major markets.

Despite the public finger-pointing, the sides were said to still be in negotiations on Friday. CBS’ most recent contract extension with TW Cable expires at 5 p.m. ET on July 24.

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