Update: Time Warner pulls plug on CBS, but then puts its decision on hold

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Time Warner Cable announced late Monday that it is removing CBS broadcast stations from its cable lineup after ongoing talks to resolve a dispute between the companies broke off.

Within minutes, however, Time Warner said it was putting its action on hold at CBS’ request.

Effective at 11 p.m. Monday, Time Warner said in a statement that its “customers in Dallas-Fort Worth, New York City and Los Angeles will no longer receive their local CBS broadcast stations. In addition, we have been forced to remove Showtime, TMC, Flix and Smithsonian from our lineups across the country.”

At issue were fee requests that Time Warner considered too high.

“We offered to pay reasonable increases, but CBS’s demands are out of line and unfair – and they want Time Warner Cable to pay more than others pay for the same programming,” the company said in its statement.

Just more than 15 minutes after putting out that statement, Time Warner released another statement, saying, “At the request of CBS, we have halted going dark on their channels.”

CBS had not responded as of late Monday, but CBS Corp. chief executive Les Moonves acknowledged earlier Monday that the stakes are high.

If the dispute is not settled, seven CBS TV stations could go dark for around 3 million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth. In North Texas, the stations are CBS 11 and KTXA 21, which broadcasts the Texas Rangers and other sporting events.

The spat between CBS and Time Warner over fees in the markets have gotten very public and are being fought out partly in paid advertising. Both sides have also been aggressive in social media campaigns.

Moonves had told the Television Critics Association that the deadline to resolve the dispute was 4 p.m. today. But as that deadline approached, the two sides agreed to extend the deadline until 10 p.m.

Both sides also agreed to continue negotiations. Time Warner Cable said it agreed to an extension until Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific time.

The disagreement centers mainly on how much Time Warner Cable pays for the right to retransmit signals from the CBS-owned stations.

Also involved is a possible blackout of CBS-owned Showtime for Time Warner Cable customers nationwide who pay extra for it.

Discussions were continuing and Moonves said he hopes the stations don’t go dark.

“As we’ve said, we feel like we should be paid for our programming,” he said. He declined to offer further details, saying he didn’t want to negotiate in public.

In Tarrant County, Time Warner Cable has customers in Arlington, Bedford, Colleyville, Dalworthington Gardens, Euless, Grand Prairie and Grapevine. It also serves customers in many Dallas-area communities including Dallas, Irving, Frisco, Garland, Mesquite and McKinney.

Dozens of blackouts have occurred nationwide in fee fights over the years, but many get resolved at the last minute.

Selling retransmission rights has become a big business for broadcasters such as CBS. Research firm SNL Kagan estimates retransmission fees will reach $3 billion industrywide this year and double to $6 billion by 2018.

Time Warner Cable has said it’s resisting a fee hike demand by CBS so prices don’t go up for customers. CBS said Time Warner Cable isn’t agreeing to terms that its competitors have accepted.

Staff writer Yamil Berard contributed to this report.

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