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

Cable operator’s consumer-perception score drops lower into negative territory while the Eye has neutral rating, according to YouGov

Consumers have increasingly negative views of both Time Warner Cable and CBS in the wake of the companies’ contract dispute — which has left the Eye’s stations dark for cable customers in New York, L.A. and Dallas since last Friday — but the operator is faring worse in the court of public opinion, according to a new survey.

Time Warner Cable’s perception score from April through the beginning of July fluctuated between minus-2 and zero, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex consumer-perception research service. After the fight with CBS became public, Time Warner Cable’s score fell from just below zero to minus-7 as of Monday, Aug. 5. The BrandIndex score is a weighted metric (ranging from minus-100 to 100) indicating relative positive or negative perception.

CBS’s reputation has also suffered from the feud. Its score was between 2 and 3 in early July, before falling to a neutral score of zero as of Monday, YouGov found.

At about 5 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 2, Time Warner Cable removed CBS stations in Gotham, L.A., Dallas and five other smaller markets, after the companies could not agree on retransmission terms. The operator also removed Showtime and other CBS-owned cablers, while the Eye retaliated by blocking TW Cable broadband subs from accessing full-length episodes on CBS.com and mobile apps.

SEE ALSO: Did CBS Blackout on Time Warner Cable Boost Piracy of ‘Under the Dome’?

Time Warner Cable has claimed CBS is asking for more than 600% over what the MSO pays other CBS affiliates — a claim the Eye called “fictional and ridiculous.” CBS says it is entitled to higher fees, arguing that it receives less from Time Warner Cable than lower-rated cablers.

Time Warner Cable, in a public-relations ploy, said it would end the blackout by either continuing carriage under previous terms or offering CBS a la carte to customers. CBS rejected the cable operator’s offer as a “sham,” saying “the economics and structure of the cable industry doesn’t work that way and isn’t likely to for quite some time.”

In contrast to CBS and Time Warner Cable, Showtime has maintained a positive score of 6 — before and after the blackout, according to YouGov’s survey.

The YouGov BrandIndex is based on a daily online survey of 4,000 adults 18 and older with a representative mix of the U.S. population. The survey for CBS, Time Warner Cable and Showtime asked respondents: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

Neither CBS nor Time Warner Cable is a client of London-based YouGov.

The last public retrans fight between a major broadcaster and cable operator occurred in October 2010, when Fox went dark on Cablevision Systems just before the World Series. Like Time Warner Cable, consumers already perceived Cablevision negatively before the blackout, and perception worsened by the time the dispute ended in late October, according to YouGov — while the perception of Fox rose following the standoff.

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