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CBS, Time Warner Cable Talks Seen Extending for Several More Weeks

Programmer and No. 2 cable operator negotiating retrans for owned-and-operated stations, carriage of cable nets

Negotiations between CBS and Time Warner Cable to renew their four-year-old pact — covering retransmission of CBS owned-and-operated TV stations and carriage of cable nets including Showtime — are expected to take several more weeks to resolve, according to a source familiar with the talks.

The 2008 agreement between The Eye and the No. 2 U.S. cable operator expired June 30. Companies extended the previous deal for an unspecified length of time while they hammer out a new one.

CBS and TWC have declined to comment on the talks except to confirm that they are ongoing. Such broad agreements are complex, spanning not only multiple broadcast and cable properties but also video-on-demand and TV Everywhere rights.

According to industry analysts, The Eye will use the upcoming start of the NFL season and fall TV debuts as leverage in trying to extract retrans coin from TWC. Currently CBS’s primetime lineup includes “Under the Dome,” based on the Stephen King novel, which is on track to be a summer ratings hit for The Eye.

CBS is likely asking for at least $1 per subscriber in retrans fees from TWC, according to industry analysts. Over all, CBS execs have said they expect retrans revenue to double in 2013 to around $500 million.

Historically, CBS has not played brinkmanship in dealing with pay-TV distributors, unlike other station groups that have pulled their feeds in retrans disputes. Taking the nuclear option is disruptive and bad publicity, and The Eye has tried to cut deals without resorting to public mud-slinging.

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