CBS programming for more than 3 million Time Warner Cable customers began returning Sunday night after a month-long blackout that darkened CBS and CBS-owned channels such as Showtime, The Movie Channel, the CBS Sports Network and a few others. The two companies publicly ended their payment dispute on Monday thanks to mounting pressure related to the upcoming football season, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Time Warner Cable's CEO Glenn Britt stated that the cable company didn't get everything it wanted, but it's definitely in a better place now than it was before the negotiations began. The whole conflict centered on licensing fees the cable company is expected to pay the network, and mostly over the digital rights such as online content and DVR recording.
The agreement will restore CBS in New York (WCBS and WLNY), Los Angeles (KCBS and KCAL) and Dallas (KTVT and KTXA). Around 1.1 million of New York's 7.4 million viewers were affected by the blackout, as was an estimated 1.3 million of the 5.6 million households in Los Angeles, and 400,000 of the 2.6 million viewers in Dallas. Overall the blackout only affected around 1 percent of CBS' national viewership, CBS said.
"We’re pleased to be able to restore CBS programming for our customers, and appreciate their patience and loyalty throughout the dispute," Britt said. "As in all of our negotiations, we wanted to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience for our customers."
Britt also took the opportunity to criticize the 1992 retransmission consent rules, calling them "woefully out of date" and the reason why cable bills continue to rise. These rules were established in the 1992 U.S. Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, and requires cable and satellite TV companies to obtain permission from networks before rebroadcasting their programming. Britt called on policymakers to prevent further blackouts by reexamining those rules.
In an internal memo to employees, CBS president Leslie Moonves said the dispute was "far more protracted" than CBS had expected, but it was worth perusing to achieve a satisfactory conclusion. "The final agreements with Time Warner Cable deliver to us all the value and terms that we sought in these discussions," Moonves said. "We are receiving fair compensation for CBS content and we also have the ability to monetize our content going forward on all the new, developing platforms that are right now transforming the way people watch television."
FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn stated on Monday that she was glad that the two parties finally resolved their dispute. "At the end of the day, media companies should accept shared responsibility for putting their audience's interests above other interests and do all they can to avoid these kinds of disputes in the future," she said.
All CBS stations were expected to return Sunday evening, and then the CBS Primetime on Demand and Showtime on Demand libraries within the next 24 hours. Time Warner said it has no plans to hand out monetary compensation for the blackout, stating that it provided a preview of Starz Kids & Family, a free movie on demand or an Amazon gift card, free antennas and access to the Tennis Channel during the U.S. Open as "compensation".