Alicia Carroll ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Early Tuesday morning, Time Warner Cable (TWC) cut the signal for CBS Corp (CBS) owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, sending three major television markets into a CBS blackout. The two companies were amidst negotiations for re-transmission prices when Time Warner cut the signal, as threatened earlier in negotiations. The signal was out for about a half an hour before Time Warner agreed to restore it, at CBS’s request. Over 3 million CBS subscribers were affected, and programs like 60 Minutes and Under The Dome (#1 in the ratings) were disrupted by the blackout.
This issue is eerily similar to a certain debt ceiling crisis our country has been dealing with. When time runs out on negotiations, very bad things happen.
Time Warner posted this statement on the channels that were out:
“CBS has demanded an outrageous increase in the amount we and our customers pay for programming that CBS delivers for free on over-the-air and online, requiring us to remove their stations from your lineup while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms. We regret this inconvenience, but we feel it is crucial we let CBS know that we’re willing to do what it takes to keep down the price of television.”
The deadline for negotiations was set for Monday night. CBS demanded an increase in re-transmission fees per subscriber, hoping to increase their transmission revenue. The spokeswomen for the companies are going with “she said, she said” attacks; Time Warner accusing CBS of having “outrageous, out of line, and unfair demands,” requesting a price seven times higher than what Time Warner was currently paying.
CBS responded by saying they are simply asking for proportionate and fair compensation for being America’s most-watched network with America’s most watched programs. They feel that they deserve a pay-increase. They accuse Time Warner of “voodoo mathematics” and being unreasonable during negotiations.
The new negotiation deadline is set for Friday night. If a compromise is not reached, Time Warner has threatened to cut CBS owned signals, including Showtime, The Movie Channel, Flix, Smithsonian, and The CW. The future potential blackout would be the largest blackout in the television market since Cablevision cut signals to Fox for two weeks, three years ago.
Time Warner feels that they are being reasonable and have agreed to a fair increase in price, but the demands CBS are making are not practical. The current demands require Time Warner to pay more than other networks for the same programming. It has escalated to the point that CBS Chief Executive, Leslie Moonves, declared, “We’re at war with Time Warner Cable…” So it doesn’t look like an agreement will be made any time soon.
Since programmers have been fighting for better payment from distributors like Time Warner Cable, The LA Times says more blackouts are likely, due to The Federal Communications Commission’s refusal to get involved in matters like these. Certain members of Congress want to change the current transmission rules… but who knows how long that will take. For the time being, it is up to the companies to settle their disputes. Let’s hope they work it out, because a world with out reruns of Big Bang Theory and 90210…is just not a world I want to live in.