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Time Warner Cable Subscribers Sue Over CBS, Showtime Blackout

Class-action lawsuit seeks recovery of fees paid to Time Warner Cable for programming blacked out since Aug. 2 in dispute with the Eye

Three Time Warner Cable customers in Southern California have filed a class-action lawsuit against the cable company over the blackout of CBS, Showtime, The Movie Channel and KCAL — now in its 13th day — demanding to get refunds for the loss of the channels.

Time Warner Cable’s “inter-contractual disputes with content providers is not something that should be passed on to consumers,” according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: Time Warner Cable: Still No Credits for Loss of CBS Stations

The suit, seeking recovery of fees paid to Time Warner Cable for the blacked-out programming, was filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles. Plaintiffs James Armstrong, Michael Pourtemour and Vatsana Bilavarn accuse Time Warner Cable of engaging in unlawful and unfair business practices.

Time Warner Cable declined to comment.

Previously, the cable company said it would issue credits to Showtime subscribers retroactive to Aug. 2, the first day of the blackout. However, Time Warner Cable said CBS stations are part of the basic programming package, and that it is not the company’s policy to credit customers for any individual channel change, “because the whole package continues to provide value.”

According to the lawsuit, “An unspecified future credit has been promised (by Time Warner Cable), but to date, no such credit has been posted to the accounts of Plaintiffs.”

The 2008 pact between CBS and Time Warner Cable expired June 30. After a series of deadline extensions, the companies were still unable to reach terms on a new contract — and on Aug. 2, more than 3 million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, L.A. and Dallas lost access to CBS-owned stations. In addition, Time Warner Cable removed Showtime, TMC, Flix and Smithsonian Channel from lineups nationwide.

The class-action suit filed Wednesday alleges that Time Warner Cable offered new subscribers six free months of Showtime as an incentive to sign up even though the operator was “aware of its dispute and/or the potential for a dispute with CBS/Showtime.” Two of the plaintiffs — Armstrong and Pourtemour — are Showtime subscribers, while the third, Bilavarn, “would not have subscribed to TWC if she had been advised that free channels would not be part of the subscription services.”

SEE ALSO: Time Warner Cable Taking Bigger Hit Than CBS in PR War Over Blackout: Survey

Time Warner Cable is offering Showtime subs replacement programming from Starz and Encore, but the lawsuit says that is “not a reasonable substitute for programming blacked out, as it does not include a fungible offering of programs relative to CBS and Showtime.” The complaint notes that the two plaintiffs who are Showtime subscribers have been unable to watch “Dexter” and “Ray Donovan” during the blackout, and cites the loss of CBS programming including “Big Brother,” NFL games and the PGA Championship.

Plaintiffs are repped by L.A.-based law firm Weintraub & Selth. Lawsuit seeks class-action standing on behalf of all “similarly situated subscribers of Time Warner Cable.”

Separately, in June four Southern California pay TV subscribers filed a class-action suit against Time Warner Cable over the MSO’s estimated $11 billion in programming rights deals with the Dodgers and the Lakers. That suit alleges that because of those pacts, subscribers in the region will be forced to pay $4 to $5 per month extra for regional sports networks as part of expanded basic cable packages, without any opportunity to opt out.

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