BC Beat

Industry Insiders Weigh In on TWC-CBS

8/08/2013 04:25:49 PM

With the CBS-Time Warner Cable battle growing more heated—and CBS stations blacked out across TWC subs in eight markets—industry insiders have been throwing in their two cents in support of both parties.

“Although those terms are not ideal to CBS or TWC, and would leave TWC and our customers without the digital rights that CBS has provided to others, since both parties have lived under those terms productively for many years, we believe we should continue to live with them in the interest of restoring CBS immediately for the benefit of consumers. Regardless of the other issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these Internet customers to blocking of content that is made available for free to all others. This is especially so given that CBS uses free public airwaves to broadcast that content and has public interest obligations that it is plainly flouting. In addition, this conduct is abhorrent in that CBS is using this blocking to punish TWC’s Internet customers across the country, including millions of consumers in cities where we continue to carry CBS on our cable systems through agreements with other CBS-affiliated stations; is blocking customers of other multichannel providers, including Direct TV, with whom CBS has no dispute; and is apparently blocking customers of certain other ISP’s, to which TWC provides wholesale Internet services.”
–Glenn Britt, in a letter to CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves on Aug. 5

“I was surprised to get your letter yesterday, particularly since I hadn’t spoken to you in more than a week. Come to think of it, you haven’t reached out to me personally, as I have to you on more than one occasion, even once during this entire matter, so your communication was both unexpected and welcome. The fact that you released it simultaneously to the media, however, dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. It made me suspect that the document was not, as I hoped, a sincere offer but rather a public relations gesture of some kind. Sadly, my suspicions were more than justified. First, after reviewing your letter, we have concluded that there is not a sincere or helpful proposal in it. It is, rather, a well-wrought distraction. Since that night, Friday at 5:00 PM, we have not heard from anybody at Time Warner Cable to discuss anything at all, in spite of your public statements to the contrary. Until, of course, your public letter masquerading as a private one. That’s not negotiating. That’s grandstanding. We view your so-called proposal, then, as nothing more than an attempt to muddy the water and confuse the public discussion. Rather than engaging in public posturing that achieves nothing but confusion and doesn’t move us one bit closer to our mutual goal, please return to the negotiating table and talk about the real issues that separate us. We will be there waiting and hopeful.”
–CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, in response to Glenn Britt on Aug. 6

“On the retrans front, we never like to see battles like this obviously, because we think that sometimes they bring attention to the business that isn’t necessarily helpful. That said, maybe you’d expect this from a programmer, but we feel strongly about the need for broadcasters to be paid adequately for the value that they deliver, both to consumers or customers of multichannel services and to the distributors themselves. Even though these broadcast stations, can be, as you know, obtained for free over the air, we know that distributors repackage these signals and in fact sell them as part of other services to consumers and thus we think we should get paid. We also believe that the combination of programming, both national and network and local, particularly news, is really compelling as evidenced by the ratings that these stations deliver compared with the ratings of numerous other channels. And therefore we think that the stations should get paid accordingly. I don’t really have details about this negotiation. So I don’t really want to weigh in specifically about it. But I don’t sense that the government is close to jumping into the fray on this one. Look, I think they’d probably prefer that we work this out or that owners of stations and distributors work this out themselves. But I don’t get a sense that there is government intervention that is imminent because of this.”
Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger on a conference call with analysts releasing the company’s third-quarter earnings on Aug. 6

In Support of Time Warner Cable

“Just like the characters in CBS’ Under the Dome, all pay TV customers are feeling trapped and helpless as broadcasters expect them to absorb ridiculous rate increases for the exact same programming. In trying to protect our own customers, DirecTV has certainly had its share of these battles, so we applaud Time Warner Cable for fighting back against exorbitant programming cost increases. We are also appalled to learn that CBS is now punishing DirecTV customers, who may happen to have Time Warner as their Internet provider, by denying them access to CBS content online. The conduct of content companies in their efforts to extract outrageous fees from distributors and consumers may have reached a new low.”
–DirecTV, on Aug. 3

“In the last two weeks alone, millions of consumers in over 50 markets stretching from New York City to Honolulu have been blacked out by broadcast station owners attempting to pilfer billions of dollars from the pockets of hardworking American families. CBS Corp. has gone even further, blocking Bright House and Time Warner Cable broadband customers from accessing free CBS online content and, in doing so, violating the spirit of rules designed to protect an open Internet. When the recent actions of companies like CBS, ICA Broadcasting, Journal Broadcast Group and Raycom Media are coupled with the Federal Communications Commission’s unwillingness to protect television viewers, it means consumers have only two choices - both unacceptable - blackouts or higher cable prices. It is a disturbing trend and absolute proof that our nation’s broadcast television laws are desperately in need of reform. Mediacom commends Bright House, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable for taking a stand on behalf of television viewers against outrageous programming price increases. As a company that has fought these battles firsthand, we would encourage customers to remain loyal as switching providers will only empower the broadcast station owners to seek even higher prices in the future. We implore all Americans to contact their Members of Congress and insist that they immediately fix our nation’s outdated broadcast television laws.”
–Mediacom Communications, on Aug. 6

“The American Television Alliance is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to act immediately to protect the millions of Americans who have been subjected to CBS’ shameful blacking out of its Internet content. CBS’ Internet blackout affects subscribers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks broadband services, some of whom don’t even use Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks for pay-TV service. TV blackouts are at an all-time high. Subscribers of four different pay-TV providers are being subjected to retransmission consent blackouts. And now CBS is blacking out its content on the Internet for millions of Americans. Is the FCC really willing to stand by as CBS abuses the free spectrum it received and hijacks the Internet?”
–The American Television Alliance, on Aug. 5

“The action taken by CBS to black out millions of Time Warner Cable customers validates ACA’s oft-stated position that the rules governing retransmission consent are outdated and need to reflect current market conditions. Congress and the FCC should also be troubled that in addition to blacking out Time Warner Cable video customers, CBS took the unwarranted step of blocking Time Warner Cable broadband customers from accessing a range of CBS.com content, including full-length episodes of previously aired broadcast programming.”
–American Cable Association president Matt Polka, on Aug. 5

In Support of CBS

“The Board of Directors of the CBS Television Network Affiliates Association supports CBS’s efforts to obtain market-based compensation and other terms in its negotiations with Time Warner Cable.  By refusing to offer CBS rates that are comparable to those paid for lower rated channels and by rejecting CBS’s offer of a one-week extension, it is Time Warner Cable — and not CBS — that has chosen to deprive Time Warner Cable’s subscribers of CBS programming.  Time Warner Cable’s decision to pull CBS’s stations is not surprising, given that it has repeatedly pulled stations from its systems throughout the country over the past few years.  In fact, a full 80% of the retransmission consent “blackouts” that have occurred since the beginning of 2012 have involved Time Warner Cable, DISH and DIRECTV alone.  These numbers underscore that it is the tactics of these distributors that are a threat to consumers, not retransmission consent.  We applaud CBS for its efforts to secure fees that will support its continued investment in the highest quality news, sports and entertainment programming, so that this content can remain available to all Americans, whether they subscribe to pay-TV services like Time Warner Cable or receive this programming for free over the air.”
–CBS Affiliates Board, on Aug. 7

“NAB supports a broadcaster’s right to receive fair compensation for the most watched programming on television.”
–National Association of Broadcasters

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