Time Warner Cable offers deal to end CBS blackout

Aug. 5, 2013 at 4:41 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Time Warner Cable Inc. told CBS Corp. Monday it would end the CBS major-city blackout if the U.S. TV network lets the cable giant offer its stations a la carte.

In a letter, Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Glenn Britt also called on CBS CEO Les Moonves to stop blocking CBS.com content from Time Warner broadband customers, the cable company said.

CBS and Moonves had no immediate public comment on the letter, which Time Warner released publicly. The network said Sunday it was willing to resume negotiations with Time Warner.

CBS stations and cable networks owned by CBS are blacked out in many parts of the country, including large parts of New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. The blackout started Friday evening following the breakdown of talks between the corporate giants.

The quarrel centers on so-called re-transmission consent fees, which cable and satellite companies pay to some broadcasters for the right to carry their channels.

These fees are big revenue sources for broadcasters and CBS said in negotiation it wanted more money from Time Warner for its flagship network that Time Warner was willing to pay.

Under the law, a cable operator may refuse a broadcaster's proposal and not carry the broadcaster's programming

Britt told Moonves in the letter if CBS lets the cable company during negotiations carry its stations on a standalone basis -- meaning customers would pay for the network a la carte if they want it -- all the re-transmission consent fees would go to CBS, Time Warner said Monday.

"This way, rather than our debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming," he wrote.

CBS is the nation's highest-rated broadcast network. Time Warner is the No. 2 U.S. cable company.

The deal Britt proposed "would be ongoing to make sure customers are not once again held hostage by CBS during this process," Britt wrote. "We expect, though, that since each of our proposals is very straightforward, the papers can be completed quickly."

Several media analysts told The New York Times before the letter was sent they thought the standoff could last from about 10 days to the start of the fall NFL season, which everyone involved agrees cannot be denied to subscribers.

In asking CBS to stop blocking Time Warner broadband subscribers from the CBS website, which carries CBS shows, Britt wrote, "Regardless of the issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these Internet customers to blocking of content that is made available for free to all others."

"This conduct is abhorrent in that CBS is using this blocking to punish TWC's Internet customers across the country, including millions of consumers in cities where we continue to carry CBS on our cable systems through agreements with our CBS-affiliated stations," The Hollywood Reporter quoted the letter as saying.

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