CBS, Time Warner reach TV content agreement

September 2, 2013

TV network CBS and cable provider Time Warner ended their payment dispute Monday and resumed broadcasts to millions of homes in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles.

The agreement ended a blackout of CBS and CBS-owned channels, including the Showtime Networks, the CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel. The contract disagreement started Aug. 2 and affected about 3 million homes. Broadcasting resumed Monday evening on the East Coast.

The companies were in dispute over how much Time Warner Cable would pay for CBS programming. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The agreement includes retransmission fees the cable operator pays to CBS per subscriber, which had been a sticking point.

The dispute occurred at a touchy time for networks and cable companies as more and more Americans are turning to alternative ways to watch television, including online or via Roku boxes or Apple TV.

Added pressure was on the two companies to reach an agreement before the start of NFL regular-season games this week. College football and the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York began last week.

The blackout affected about 1.1 million of New York’s 7.4 million television households that get CBS. An estimated 1.3 million of 5.6 million households in Los Angeles were blacked out, along with 400,000 of Dallas’s 2.6 million TV homes, CBS said. Those are three of the nation’s five most populous television markets.

CBS estimates the blackout cut the network’s national viewership by 1 percent.

The talks were being closely watched beyond these companies and their customers because of the idea that a retransmission agreement will set a precedent for negotiations between different networks and cable or satellite companies. Another point of contention was the cable operator’s access to CBS material for on-demand or mobile device viewing.

“While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started,” Time Warner Cable’s chief executive, Glenn Britt, said in a statement.

Mignon L. Clyburn, acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, said in a statement that she was “pleased CBS and Time Warner Cable have resolved their retransmission consent negotiations, which for too long have deprived millions of consumers of access to CBS programming.”

In the end, she added, media companies should “accept shared responsibility” for putting their audiences’ interests above other interests.

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