Time Warner Cable and CBS failed to reach a deal over carriage fees before a self-imposed deadline of 2 p.m. Friday, and CBS channels and Showtime have gone dark on the cable network in Los Angeles, New York City and Dallas.
In Los Angeles, the outage affects CBS and KCAL, as well as Showtime for subscribers who paid for it. The disagreement also affects The Movie Channel, FLIX and the Smithsonian channel, which are owned by CBS.
In a statement, Time Warner Cable said:
We agreed to an extension on Tuesday morning with the expectation that we would engage in a meaningful negotiation with CBS. Since then, CBS has refused to have a productive discussion. It’s become clear that no matter how much time we give them, they’re not willing to come to reasonable terms. We thank our customers for their patience and support as we continue to fight hard to keep their prices down.
CBS' statement began:
Effective 5:00 PM Eastern Time, Time Warner Cable has dropped CBS in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and several other markets. We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself. Throughout this process, Time Warner Cable has conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit, indulging in pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning – such as the fictional and ridiculous 600% increase CBS supposedly demanded – while maintaining antiquated positions no longer held by any other programming distributor in the business.
The cable provider and the broadcast network have been trying for weeks now to work through a dispute over the fees Time Warner Cable will pay CBS going forward to carry their local stations and Showtime in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. In the cable and broadcasting industry, the agreement the two sides have been trying to reach is known as “retransmission consent.”
Caught in the middle of the dispute were subscribers like Pamela Ezell of Orange.
“Well, I'll be ticked about missing 60 minutes,” Ezell told KPCC. “And I'll be ticked about missing 'Under the Dome', even though I think it's kind of silly.”
Ezell chose Time Warner Cable over DirecTV because it offered Internet access as part of a bundle, but she said she still thinks she's paying too much. Ezell said she gets a lot her news online and watches her share of Netflix and HBO Go, but her family likes to watch “regular television on television.”
“That will be a big disruption to our viewing habits,” Ezell said.
Her options until the blackout is lifted are CBS.com for show episodes and the old-fashioned antenna for live broadcasts.
Senior Analyst Robin Flynn with media analysis firm SNL Kagan said the stakes are high for CBS and Time Warner Cable. CBS wants Time Warner Cable to pay more for its programming, but Time Warner Cable says CBS is asking for too much more. Flynn estimated they are about a dollar per subscriber apart, and because the dispute covers roughly 3 million subscribers in large markets like Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas, a lot of money is at stake.
“I just think both sides believe that it’s better in the long run to take a stand now and try to come to a number that they both can live with,” says Flynn.
But she said the blackout raises the urgency to find that number fast.
“I don’t think they’ll be taking the weekend off,” Flynn said of the CBS and Time Warner Cable negotiators.
On Monday night, some TWC customers caught a brief glimpse of life without KCBS and KCAL. The stations went dark on the cable provider briefly after 9 p.m. (local time), when both companies said they’d failed to find common ground. But service was restored quickly when they decided to extend the deadline — again, after a handful of hourly extensions — and return to the bargaining table. The new deadline was 2 p.m. Friday.
Fallout from the soured deal appeared to extend to parts of San Diego, as local CBS affiliate KFMB reported Showtime would be blocked for TWC customers in North County.
Those customers have been hit doubly hard. Time Warner Cable has had a similar dispute with Fox Sports, leading to a blackout that has prevented baseball fans from watching Padres games, KFMB reported.
Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers may have a similar reason to worry. Monday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals will air on KCAL and ESPN, but Tuesday's game airs only on KCAL, which is owned by CBS.
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This story has been updated.