Business & Economy

CBS, Time Warner Cable extend negotiations to avoid blackout of KCAL and KCBS in LA

The CBS headquarters in Manhattan in New York City on April 8, 2012.
The CBS headquarters in Manhattan in New York City on April 8, 2012.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Time Warner Cable customers in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas will have another night and morning to watch their local CBS stations before an agreement between the two companies is set to expire.

As they try to hammer out a new contract, the companies are locked in a battle over retransmission fees – essentially how much the cable provider must pay to carry the TV network’s local stations. If the two companies can’t reach an agreement, KCBS and KCAL could go dark for Time Warner Cable customers in Los Angeles.

The two sides extended their current contract to Wednesday afternoon to give negotiators more time. The deadline has been extended again because of a Federal Communications Commission rule prohibiting stations from going dark during a sweeps rating period. Nielsen’s current sweeps month runs from June 27 through Wednesday (July 24).

An agreement needs to be reached or the contract extended by 9 a.m. Eastern time Thursday or the local stations may go dark on the cable system.

CBS wants to raise the fees Time Warner Cable pays per subscriber to carry the local stations. Time Warner believes CBS is asking too much.

“CBS wants us to pay over 600 (percent) more than we pay in other areas from coast to coast for the same programming,” Time Warner Cable said in a statement  “We are negotiating very hard for a reasonable price.”

In its own statement, CBS said Time Warner Cable is planning: “to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won’t  negotiate the same sort of deal that all other cable, satellite, and (telephone) companies have struck with CBS.”

Time Warner Cable disputes that, saying that privately, CBS has refused to offer assurances that it’s asking Time Warner to pay the same rate that other companies pay. Both sides have taken their dispute to the airwaves, with ads accusing one another of potentially causing a blackout, and websites calling television viewers to action.

"Time is running out and Time Warner Cable is not listening, and that means very soon, you will not see your favorite CBS shows," says one ad on the Keep CBS web site. "No 'Under the Dome.' No 'Big Brother.' No 'NCIS.' No NFL or PGA Championships or US Open Tennis."

On its "Conversations" web site, Time Warner Cable's ad says: "CBS is driving up the price you pay for TV, and it's time to draw the line."

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves got involved on Tuesday with a memo to CBS staff, which KPCC obtained. Moonves wrote that many cable networks with less viewers receive more money for their programming from Time Warner than CBS does. 

"It’s not like Time Warner Cable doesn’t have the money," Moonves wrote. "Cable is a very, very profitable business, and Time Warner Cable can certainly afford to pay CBS a fair rate for our programming without passing any added cost on to its customers."