SPOILER: Everyone Loses in ‘Time Warner Cable and CBS vs. the World’

What’s more important: quality content or the distribution of that content? PR pros know the answer: distribution strategies don’t really matter if no one wants to see what you’re pushing.

We don’t have cable, so haven’t been directly affected by the ongoing snafu between Time Warner Cable and CBS. But we do hear that we should watch Under the Dome, and we can’t do it online right now because TWC is the only Internet provider that serves our area, and they’re currently engaged in a bitch-slapping contest with “the most-watched cable network.”

Time Warner’s decision to kill CBS broadcast and streaming services in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, et cetera threatens to create a big PR fail for both brands—and it certainly hasn’t made us miss that monthly cable bill. So let’s check out their crisis comms efforts…

OK, TWC wins the copywriting contest to date. But how much difference does that really make? CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks confirmed that this dispute is really all about the fact that TWC refuses to pay extra for the right to let customers watch CBS content online or on demand (with an Internet connection provided by…you guessed it, Time Warner Cable). So who needs to make a concession: the content creator or the content distributor trying to save its dying monopoly?

We tend to side with the chubby Canadian guy from Pineapple Express.

As content producers, we know all about the importance of fighting to own and earn money for the work you do. And customers who’ve already paid to watch their favorite shows really don’t give a damn and “don’t really trust either side on these sorts of things.”

Now why might that be? Depending on which side you’re on, either CBS can’t accept the fact that its business model is falling apart because people don’t want to pay cable companies like TWC and support the advertisers that run this machine or TWC can’t accept the fact that customers are perfectly willing to pay for exclusive content as long as they don’t have to subscribe to 2000 other channels (hence its business model falling apart). To the PR teams responsible for these campaigns we say: there must be a better way to go about it.

The worst part about the story is that it will all blow over by the time football season starts. Just wait.