In Time Warner Cable’s latest negotiating ploy in its standoff with CBS, CEO Glenn Britt said in a letter Monday to CBS topper Les Moonves that the cable company would be willing to offer the Eye’s local stations on an a la carte basis — an obvious PR tactic, given that CBS clearly would reject such an arrangement.
Asked for a response, a CBS rep said it had “received Mr. Britt’s ‘offer’ simultaneous with its release to the media. We are formulating our response.”
Time Warner Cable customers in New York, L.A. and Dallas have been blacked out from CBS stations since last Friday, after the companies failed to reach an agreement on a new retransmission deal.
Britt, in the letter to Moonves distributed to media outlets Monday, said the No. 2 U.S. cable operator would immediately restore the CBS stations “with the new economics TWC reluctantly agreed to during our negotiations” but preserving other terms of their previous contract. That would leave Time Warner Cable without “the digital rights that CBS has provided to others,” the letter said. According to a source close to the MSO, those would include video-on-demand and TV Everywhere rights to CBS and Showtime programming.
The missive did not specify the terms of the “new economics.” According to industry analysts CBS is asking for $2 per subscriber per month for carriage of its owned-and-operated stations in those markets, up from $1 or less currently.
Alternatively, if CBS is unwilling to accept those terms, Britt said in the letter, “we would also be willing to resume carriage by allowing CBS to make stations available on an a la carte basis at a price and on terms terms of its choosing, with 100% of that price remitted to CBS.”
By providing CBS stations a la carte, “we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming,” Britt wrote.
On Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern, Time Warner Cable pulled CBS signals for approximately 3 million subscribers, primarily in New York, L.A. and Dallas. The operator also dropped Showtime and three other CBS-owned cablers, while the Eye retaliated by blocking Time Warner Cable broadband subs from accessing full episodes online.
Britt, in the letter Monday, said that regardless of CBS’s decision on how to proceed, the Eye should stop blocking CBS.com content to the cable company’s high-speed Internet users.
“Regardless of the other issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these Internet customers to blocking of that is made free to all others,” the Time Warner Cable honcho wrote.
The CBS Internet blockade not only punishes MSO’s customers in the affected markets but also Time Warner Cable broadband subs nationwide as well as those of the operator’s wholesale Internet service provider customers, according to Britt.
During the dispute — the first extended blackout of CBS-owned stations on a pay TV provider in nearly a decade — Time Warner Cable has said it was looking at the possibility of selling CBS’s channel 2 position to the highest bidder, in another attempt to gain leverage. CBS responded that it would not agree to any deal that would force it to “give up our channel position or any other asset by which our viewers identify us.”