For the last week, Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Los Angeles area have been without KCBS, KCAL, Showtime and some other channels. Time Warner Cable and CBS are in a dispute over the fees the cable giant will pay the broadcast network to carry stations CBS owns in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
The stand-off is drawing the attention of government officials. Executives from both companies made statements at a hearing held by a subcommittee of The New York City Council Thursday.
“Only this latest negotiation with Time Warner Cable has gone badly off course,” CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks said at the hearing.
Franks was contrasting the dispute with the dozens of other agreements he said CBS has made with other cable and satellite companies over the last 7 years.
According to Reuters: Rory Whelan, Time Warner Cable's regional vice president of government relations at the same hearing, accused CBS of "coercive bundling practices" and said CBS's blocking of Time Warner Cable's Internet content exhibits conduct "beyond the pale."
Time Warner Cable says CBS is blocking its internet customers from the CBS.com website. California Assemblyman Steven Bradford released a statement objecting to that practice.
“This online blackout impacts millions of Internet users, including Dish and DirecTV customers,” said Bradford, who represents Hawthorne, Inglewood, and El Segundo. “Broadcasters are given free spectrum to serve the public. CBS should not abuse Internet freedom to help its negotiations with Time Warner [Cable].”
The two companies say they have resumed negotiations. While the public relations jabs continued, Time Warner Cable customers are having to manage without the blacked out channels.
Joe Olender, 23, couldn’t watch the Los Angeles Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night, which aired only on KCAL. He’s a big Dodgers fan who lives in a South Pasadena apartment building that only offers tenants Time Warner Cable.
“I think it’s just kind of a bummer and it’s frustrating to the fans that these kind of power struggles are getting in the way of us just kind of watching the games,” said Olender, who checked for scores and updates on Twitter and at ESPN.com.
Olender said he wasn’t pressed to get to a sports bar or a friend’s house to watch the game because it wasn’t an important game and there are so many games during the regular season.
But he said he will be less complacent if the blackout when it comes to NFL games.
“If my 49ers were playing on CBS on Sunday, I might make plans to go to a bar or something for that because it is only one time a week,” Olender said.
In a statement, Time Warner Cable offered customers alternatives for watching sports events if the blackout continues. The PGA championship is streaming live at PGA.com and replays of NFL preseason games will be broadcast on the NFL network.