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CBS, Time Warner End Carriage Standoff

Broadcaster’s signal back up in N.Y., L.A., Dallas

Photo: Getty Images

With less than a week to go before the start of the 2013 NFL season, CBS and Time Warner Cable have finally come to terms on a new carriage agreement.

One month to the day after the CBS signal was pulled in Time Warner Cable’s New York, Los Angeles and Dallas markets, the two sides on Monday reached a new deal that should find the nation’s No. 1 network up and running in all affected areas before nightfall. (WCBS-2 in New York came back online at around 6 p.m. EDT.)

Along with the broadcast feed, the premium network Showtime is also back in business in all Time Warner Cable households.

Terms of the new pact were not disclosed although CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves suggested that the deal points worked in the network’s favor.

“This was a far more protracted dispute than anyone at CBS anticipated, but in spite of the pain it caused to all of us, and most importantly the inconvenience to our viewers who were affected, it was an important one, and one worth pursuing to a satisfactory conclusion. That has been achieved,” Moonves wrote in a memo to CBS employees that was released this afternoon. “The final agreements with Time Warner Cable deliver to us all the value and terms that we sought in these discussions. 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.”

In other words, CBS appears to have secured a retransmission consent fee of $2 per subscriber per month, up from an estimated 85 cents, while ensuring greater control over digital dissemination of its content.

For its part, TWC acknowledged that it saw mixed results. “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,” said chairman and CEO Glenn Britt. “While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started.”

Britt went on to note that Congress and the Federal Communications Commission must come together “to reassess the 1992 retransmission consent rules,” which are, as he characterized them, “woefully out of date, are the primary reason cable bills are rising, and too frequently leave our customers without the programming they love.”

All told, some 3.2 million Time Warner Cable subs were unable to access the CBS feed via their set-top boxes. That said, despite being blacked out in the two largest DMAs, CBS’ ratings didn’t seem to take much of a hit.

Of course, the prospect of interfering in the weekly secular ritual that is the NFL wouldn’t have been a good move for either side—and certainly not in New York. While Week 1 finds the Jets playing on Fox and the Giants on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Big Blue is set to face the Broncos in CBS’ late national game on Sept. 15. (That’s a Manning Bowl. You do not tamper with a Manning Bowl.)

As the CBS signal began lighting up living rooms in places like Brooklyn and L.A.'s Silver Lake, Moonves appeared to be relieved that the month-long stalemate is history. “This has been a difficult time for our viewers and for CBS. I am glad it’s behind us,” he said. “After a terrific summer of programming, we now all look forward to the new television season. It’s good to be back.”

Now, if only Dish Network and ESPN can hash out a carriage renewal of their own without any attendant nastiness. This could be a matter of wishful thinking. While ESPN’s track record is fairly spectacular, Dish chief Charlie Ergen is a wild card. (Despite all assurances to the contrary.) Buckle your seatbelts; we could be in for yet another bumpy ride.
 

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