Time Warner Cable customers hoping to catch a movie on Showtime over the weekend quickly discovered that the channel was removed from the lineup. Other customers tuning in to the CBS network channel via their TV, the web or mobile apps found the station to be offline or removed from their lineup as well.
CBS and Time Warner Cable failed to reach an agreement over licensing fees on Friday, thus the cable company blocked access to CBS and Showtime networks. CBS retaliated by blocking Time Warner customers from streaming content online. For now, both are still holding steady on their blackouts.
For Showtime customers, the blackout covers the entire Time Warner Cable network. However the CBS station blackout is only taking place in major markets including Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and Pittsburgh -- around 12 stations affecting 3 million customers.
That said, the blackout has nothing to do with locally-owned CBS affiliates outside those markets that are re-broadcast by Time Warner Cable – these customers will have their dose of Under The Dome Monday night. However, The Movie Channel, Flix and the Smithsonian Channel are part of the blackout as is CBS Primetime on Demand, and the StartOver and LookBack services.
"CBS Corporation, the owner of several TV networks and broadcast TV stations, has made outrageous demands for the right to continue delivering their programming to our customers," the cable company stated on Monday. "As a result, several CBS-owned channels have been removed from your lineup, while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms."
"It appears that CBS may be blocking access to Time Warner Cable internet customers for content that they otherwise offer free to any other online user," the company adds. "We encourage you to contact CBS and let them know your opinion about denying you access because of your choice of online providers."
On Monday, Time Warner chairman and CEO Glenn Britt proposed that they resume carriage based on new "economics" the company "reluctantly" agreed on while employing all the other terms and conditions of the recently expired contracts. However this plan would leave customers without digital rights that CBS is providing non-Time Warner customers. If that's not good enough, then CBS can charge a subscription for accessing its network and let the subscribers decide if CBS programming is worth the cost.
"We call on CBS regardless of whether it accepts or rejects our proposals, to immediately cease its blocking of CBS.com content from TWC's high-speed Internet customers," he wrote. "Regardless of the other issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these internet customers to blocking content that is made available for free to all others. This is especially so given that CBS uses free public airwaves to broadcast that content and has public interest obligations that it is plainly flouting."
CBS said on Friday that Time Warner's action to drop CBS was "injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself". The company accused Time Warner Cable of negotiating in a "combative and non-productive spirit, indulging in pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning". The company called the supposed 600 percent increase in rates "fictional" and "ridiculous".
"CBS, for its part, is eager to make an agreement in line with the kind it has struck with every other cable, satellite and telco provider, and has continually sought reasonable term extensions to get that job done. This is the first time in its history that CBS has been dropped from a cable system. Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, has a long history of taking channels off the air – more than 50 in the last five years alone. It has also chosen to drop Showtime, which is owned by CBS, a move that is completely unnecessary and totally punitive to its subscribers."
One thing is for certain: there's enough drama going on here that could span a month's worth of The Young and the Restless episodes. What's also interesting, as CBS points out, is that Time Warner is blocking a subscription channel while suggesting that CBS provide the same subscription model for network TV.