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Time Warner Cable suspends CBS programming blackout


Updated at 9:35 p.m. PT with a Time Warner Cable spokesperson saying it has suspended the programming blackout at CBS' request. After weeks of talks and multiple deadline extensions, CBS and Time Warner Cable failed Monday night to come to terms on fees the cable company must pay to carry the broadcaster's programming in some major U.S. cities, and the cable giant began removing shows like "Under the Dome" from its subscription lineup. CBS and Time Warner Cable logos against the New York skyline

A spokesperson for the cable giant said CBS' "outrageous" fee demands forced it to cut off the network's programming for many of its customers as of midnight ET.
"As of midnight ET, Time Warner Cable customers in New York City, Dallas and Los Angeles will no longer receive their local CBS broadcast stations," Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff said in a statement. "In addition, we have been forced to remove Showtime, TMC, Flix and Smithsonian from our lineups across the country. We offered to pay reasonable increases, but CBS' demands are out of line and unfair -- and they want Time Warner Cable to pay more than others pay for the same programming."
In turn, CBS said it did everything it could to forge a fair agreement and accused Time Warner Cable of misleading the public about their contract talks.
"They continue to engage in a public campaign of disinformation and voodoo mathematics (featuring wildly inflated percentages) while doggedly restating their positions," CBS spokesperson Shannon Jacobs said in a statement. "Time Warner Cable seems incapable of accepting the concept that the value of a company's programming should be in line with its popularity. It is no mystery why this company has dropped more than 50 television stations from its service in the last five years alone, some as recently as last week. CBS remains resolute in the pursuit of fair compensation for our programming and will use the full resources available to us to make sure that Time Warner Cable subscribers are aware of its short-sighted, anti-consumer strategy."
CBS also said it hoped an agreement between the two companies could be reached soon.
In a later e-mail, Huff told CNET that it had suspended the removal of the channels at CBS' request. Jacobs told CNET that talks would continue but did not indicate whether there was a new deadline.


CBS Corp., which is the parent company of CNET, has been negotiating a new carriage pact with Time Warner Cable for its flagship network under multiple extensions to their previous agreement that expired June 30.
By failing to reach an agreement on retransmission fees -- money that CBS requires from TWC to carry the channel for its subscribers -- customers in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas could lose the flagship channel and all of Time Warner Cable's customers lost CBS-owned Showtime as well.
Time Warner has said it is fighting a 600 percent markup on fees compared with what it pays in the rest of the country, an unreasonable and unprecedented price it is negotiating down on behalf of its customers. CBS has said Time Warner Cable won't negotiate the same sort of deal that all other cable, satellite, and telecommunications companies have struck with the network.
Past instances of blackouts over programming costs inevitable end with the two sides coming to a settlement. Around this time last year, DirecTV and Viacom ended their nine-day blackout over the costs of carrying channels like Nickelodeon and MTV, for example.
If a blackout does occur, the questions are when will it end, what is the damage and to whom. CBS's first NFL broadcasts come in late August, with the fall television season right around the corner the following month. If popular summer shows like "Big Brother" and "Under the Dome" are dropped, Time Warner Cable will find it more difficult to keep up a hard line against CBS when professional football and the regular television season roll around.
The damage of a blackout could cut both ways. CBS would lose viewership of its shows, which hurts ratings and the ad rates it can request from marketers. Time Warner runs the risk of losing subscribers.
However, customers who lose CBS stations have online options. Time Warner has gone so far as to encourage New York customers to explore Aereo, the online streamer of over-the-air broadcasts, to pick up the broadcasts that have been dropped from its cable packages. Many CBS shows are available on the network's own Web site, typically for a limited window of time, and Amazon Prime customers can watch "Under the Dome" on its Instant Video service four days after they run.
And don't forget, you can always just get your own antenna.

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