TWC, CBS Draw Viewers Into Fee Fight

Three million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities remained without access to CBS for a third day on Sunday, after the cable provider dropped the network in a spat over fees. The two sides couldn't agree on the status of their talks either, with CBS saying on Sunday that no negotiations were taking place. A Time Warner representative maintained that, "Talks continue."

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS and Time Warner Cable can’t work out their differences, so they want viewers to help settle the fight.

Three million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities remained without access to CBS for a third day on Sunday, after the cable provider dropped the network in a spat over fees.

The blackout meant affected customers weren’t able to watch Tiger Woods win the Bridgestone Invitational on their home screens, or shows including “60 Minutes.” Also at stake was preseason National Football League coverage starting next week.

The two sides couldn’t agree on the status of their talks either, with CBS saying on Sunday that no negotiations were taking place. A Time Warner representative, Maureen Huff, maintained that, “Talks continue.”

In the meantime, the two New York-based companies have been taking their cases to the public, with full-page print ads.

A CBS ad on Sunday, for example, showed a TV screen with shots of the shows people wouldn’t be able to watch, including “The Big Bang Theory” and “Big Brother.”


“Call Time Warner Cable now,” the ad urged. “Tell them you want your CBS 2 back!”

Time Warner Cable customers who turned to CBS this weekend were greeted by a message on white screen saying the network had made “outrageous demands” for fees. It advised viewers that they could still see their favorite shows through several ways, including “using an antenna to get CBS free over the air.”

Although CBS sends its signal out over the airwaves for free to anyone with an antenna, about 85 percent of CBS viewers watch TV through a pay TV provider.

Time Warner cut off CBS for viewers in select markets on Friday, saying the network is demanding retransmission fees that are out of line with what it pays other broadcasters. CBS said it had asked the cable provider to continue negotiating while its programming was still on the air. But it said Time Warner rejected the request.

“We remain ready to negotiate in good faith when they are,” the network in a statement Sunday.

CBS says it’s never been dropped by a cable provider before and that it has successfully negotiated deals with other providers including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, DirecTV and Verizon.

CBS is trying to gain revenue from retransmission fees as a buffer against swings in advertising revenue. Analysts say earning revenue from pay TV subscribers is crucial to the network’s growth prospects.

Time Warner, meanwhile, says giving in to demands for higher fees would result in skyrocketing bills for customers. DirecTV came to the defense of its competitor, saying it applauded Time Warner for “fighting back against exorbitant programming cost increases.”

Time Warner is trying to hold down costs as it fights to keep subscribers. In the most recent quarter, it lost 191,000 cable TV subscribers, ending with 11.7 million at the end of June.

Both companies nevertheless posted healthy quarterly earnings this week. Time Warner Cable Inc. grew its net income 6 percent to $481 million, as revenue rose 3 percent to $5.55 billion. CBS Corp. grew net income 11 percent to $472 million on stronger revenue.

Comments (20)

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Joanne McDonald says:

August 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm

The affected TV viewers could try the DTV Green dish antenna system to pick up the affected stations:

I encourage viewers to join me in the fight against retransmission consent dispute abuses at:

    Wagner Pereira says:

    August 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Pretty clear you know nothing about the areas involved. In the 5 boroughs of NYC, most live in MDUs, which do not allow an external antenna and there is no private area to put one on. Further out, especially in NJ, there are issues getting a clean line of site to Empire State Building Transmission site – and the backup site in Times Square, while better coverage inside the side, kills coverage outside the city almost entirely.If you don’t believe me, read the adventures of CNET’s TV Tech guy David Katzmaier as he tried to drop cable a year ago and how he could not get a good signal signal OTA at his NJ residence, finally giving up and going back to cable. In LA, there is line of sight blockage to the Mt. Wilson antenna site in a number of areas. Now, credit where credit is due, if broadcasters had paid attention to Sinclair’s warning about the HDTV standard 10 years ago, it would be much easier to receive OTA with smaller indoor antennas.

    mike tomasino says:

    August 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    The Greendish antenna is a scam, and I’m not sure I’d put much weight in David Katzmaier’s experience. I really believe that he got talked into getting the wrong antenna for his area, that and his wife is a whiner, and that is the main reason his experiment failed.

    Bobbi Proctor says:

    August 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    There are definitely locations where TV reception can be tricky and the buildings of NYC can cause problems. And you are right about the transmission standard for digital. Should have been different. Multiple family buildings can distribute off-air signals to apartments. Residents should contact management. Before cable that is how it was done everywhere and still is in many situations. Home owners cannot be barred by home owner’s associations, etc. from putting up TV antennas. There are certain guidelines that must be followed. Federal law.

    mike tomasino says:

    August 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    But, “Insider” is right that if you don’t have access to a “exclusive use” area you can be barred from putting up an antenna. That can limit you to an antenna mounted inside, which isn’t always the best solution.

    Shana Marshall says:

    August 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I have yet to try any of my homemade log periodic antennas in NYC. I always take all my gear with me when I travel. I have all my usual ham gear, wifi snooping gear, and DTV dongle. I have a homemade wifi antenna that can usually connect to places up to one mile away. I always hope the hotel or motel has a balcony so I can attach the antenna outside. But a nice upper floor works fine. I can usually find an open router somewhere to do casual browsing to pass time. I also have an antenna for the DTV ATSC dongle. I like to check out the local stations and the hotel tv often does not carry them all. Then if all else fails, you always have the streaming services that are on the way up the federal court system right now. So far, they are winning the game. So people in NYC can stream CBS if they like even though CBS may no like it. Nobody know how SCOTUS will swing on the deal. But for now, with a small monthly fee, they can get it at Aereo. This is their current channel line up
    MOVIES! WNYW-DT2 (5.2)
    ION WPXN (31.1)
    Cozi TV WNBC-DT2 (4.2)
    MyNetworkTV WWOR-DT2 (9.2)
    ThisTV WPIX-DT3 (11.3)
    AntennaTV WPIX-DT2 (11.2)
    Bounce TV WWOR-DT3 (9.3)

    Lifestyle & Local Interest

    ION Life WPXN-DT3 (31.3)
    Livewell WABC-DT2 (7.2)
    NYC Life WNYE-DT (25.1)
    NYC Gov WNYE-DT2 (25.2)

    Children’s Programming

    PBS Kids WNET-DT2 (13.2)
    Qubo WPXN-DT2 (31.2)

    Home Shopping

    HSN HSN (60.1)
    HSN2 HSN2 (60.2)

    Shana Marshall says:

    August 5, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Oops, left out these network station

    CBS WCBS (2.1)
    NBC WNBC (4.1)
    FOX WNYW (5.1)
    ABC WABC (7.1)
    CW WPIX (11.1)
    PBS WNET (13.1)

Jeff Groves says:

August 5, 2013 at 8:14 am

As these little wars over “Retransmission Fees” escalate, more and more viewers will become disgruntled over the ever-increasing fees that are imp[osed on them, and the number of “cord-cutters” will continue to rise. Big Media is in a death spiral, its only a matter of time before the whole shebang collapses like a house of cards.

Leah Garey says:

August 5, 2013 at 9:12 am

CBS could go nuclear and encourage people to use antennas to get their CBS programming for free. I’m betting TWC doesn’t want its subscribers to hear that. TWC could then drop the dirty little secret that cable fees go up because the nets actually want the cablers to PAY for the programming that cable cos. then turn around and charge cable subscribers to see. This whole thing can get crazy in jig time if cooler heads don’t prevail.

alicia farmer says:

August 5, 2013 at 9:59 am

Pigs get slaughtered. That includes station groups and cable/satellite companies.

Bill Greep says:

August 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

Go CBS… the dirty little secret is y-t-y record TWC profits and they love to use these spats as tools justifying higher monthly fees to subscribers. I understand the public perceptions… if only they understood what ESPN charges (and receives) compared to any broadcast company. It’s not even close. If you want lower monthly fees, cut ESPN’s channels comp in half, get rid of rogue cable channels that no-one watches, and you will have a justifyable reduction in rates.

    mike tomasino says:

    August 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I’m sure that ESPN is going to start seeing blackouts soon also. You have to realize that TWC lost close to 5% of their video subscribers in the last 12 months. Either they get a handle on programming costs or they need to just dump the whole video distribution thing in favor of internet only. Cablevision is already publicly talking about the possiblity. Internet margins are much higher than video, and there may come a day in the near future when video service is no longer worth the cost. Then content producers will need to figure out how to get distribution apart from the cable pipe.

Bobbi Proctor says:

August 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

Just do what we did and use an antenna to get great HDTV on local stations. Drop the cable and save a lot of money which can be used for vacations and going to a game you have to pay for to watch on ESPN or another pay TV channel. I always chuckle when I hear friends talk about the cost of cable and all of the channels they pay for and never watch and I suspect CBS isn’t one of those unwatched channels. TWC is making money and can pay for the programming they distribute. It costs CBS stations to provide the programming they offer. TWC makes money off of that programming and can pay for it. Cable subscribers have chosen to pay for TV. If it is too expensive they can drop pay TV.

Wagner Pereira says:

August 5, 2013 at 11:30 am

Just wait until Friday night when the first Jets PreSeason game is on WCBS-TV and locals on TWC can not view it. That’s when the real fun starts.

Bill Greep says:

August 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Snap… I hope you are right about your ESPN prediction… I don’t think we’re quite at that tipping point yet, but sports rights’ fees will get us to that point in the next few years and then it will get interesting. Can you imagine the scenario where every Sunday you will pay a fee (think ala pay-per-view for a prizefight) just to watch your local market NFL team ? In my opinion, the only reason why the NFL is smarter than the rest is it keeps the bulk of their product on free over-the-air TV. Those that don’t follow that model (Wimbledon, MLB etc) have seen rating drops. For major sports to survive, they best have their product available to the very blue collar audience that helped build their business model to the point they are at now. It’s going to be interesting ! If you want to see cable bills drop, start with the ESPN’s of the world before worrying about a broadcast newtork.

Bobbi Proctor says:

August 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I no longer watch my local major league baseball games because they are now only on cable which we don’t have. That’s OK as they are still on radio and we still save a lot of money. It would cost us over $100 to get the channel that carries the games in high definition. And why does cable charge extra for HD?

    mike tomasino says:

    August 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Why does cable charge extra for HD? Because they can. Why do they make their SD channels look so bad? Because they want people to upgrad to HD. Why does the HD on cable look so bad? Because people are still willing to pay for it! 😉

Joanne McDonald says:

August 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I favor retransmission consent reforms which requires all broadcasters and broadcasting groups to tell where they have and are they going to spend the money from retrans fees pick up from cable/satellite for where they are intending it to use it on.

Keith ONeal says:

August 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Part 1 ~ Showtime and The Movie Channel are pay by the month subscription channels on cable and satellite providers. To get them (along with HBO and Cinemax) you first subscribe to a cable or satellite service, then you pay a seperate monthly fee for the channel(s) you want. I don’t think that it was right for those channels to be pulled at all! We need Congress, the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Comission, the Federal Communications Commission, AND the Federal Bureau of Investigation to let CBS, Time Warner, and Bright House know that they can’t do this, and that they will be punished for it!

Keith ONeal says:

August 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Part 2 ~ It is bad enough that Showtime, The Movie Channel, Flix, CBS Sports Network, and Smithsonian was pulled from ALL the Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks locations. What’s even worse is that CBS decided to punish the people who get their broadband from TWC and BHN by making their cbs.com website unavailable while this STUPID retrans consent war goes on! I WAS on CBS’s side until they did this; I am now siding with TWC/BHN. What CBS did is unacceptable and is an OUTRAGE!!! CBS can go to Hell!

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