Time Warner Cable Pulls the Plug on CBS

Network’s signal goes dark in New York; Los Angeles and Dallas to follow

CBS has gone dark in New York.

In the latest development in the ongoing carriage dispute between CBS and the Time Warner Cable, the local affiliate went off the air this afternoon at approximately 5:04 p.m. EDT.

In place of WCBS-2’s 5 p.m. newscast, viewers were treated to a blue screen embellished with the Time Warner Cable eye logo. According to an on-screen message from the cable operator, CBS’ “outrageous demands for the programming that it delivers free over the air and online…required us to remove their stations from your lineup while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms.”

The cable operator went on to apologize for the inconvenience before alerting subscribers that they may access CBS content online and via Aereo

Showtime also has gone dark in TWC’s New York footprint, which includes Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

As a mollifying gesture, TWC will offer New York subs replacement programming from Starz Kids and Family. 

At present, the CBS feed is still live in Los Angeles and Dallas, but those cities are expected to go dark in short order.

Moments after the WCBS-2 signal was interrupted, CBS responded with an official statement: “Time Warner Cable has dropped CBS in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and several other markets. We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself. Throughout this process, Time Warner Cable has conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit, indulging in pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning—such as the fictional and ridiculous 600 percent increase CBS supposedly demanded—while maintaining antiquated positions no longer held by any other programming distributor in the business.”

CBS went on to say that it is eager to reach an agreement that is “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 marks the first time CBS has been dropped from a cable system. 

For its part, TWC said that it had on Tuesday morning agreed to an extension “with the expectation that we would engage in a meaningful negotiation with CBS. Since then, CBS has refused to have a productive discussion. It’s become clear that no matter how much time we give them, they’re not willing to come to reasonable terms.”

Per RBC Capital Markets estimates, TWC pays CBS a retransmission consent fee between 75 cents and $1 per subscriber per month. The firm reports that it believes CBS is looking to secure a $2 fee.

CBS is the most-watched, highest-rated network on television, and it spends an estimated $3.6 billion per year on its content.

“What CBS seeks, and what we always have sought from the beginning, is fair compensation for the most-watched television network with the most popular content in the world,” the network said. “We will not accept less.”

The disruption in service comes after weeks of negotiations and what CBS characterized as “pointless maneuvers.” On Monday night alone, the deadline was pushed back no fewer than four times before the NYC signal was interrupted for a few minutes shortly after midnight. Then, in an unexpected reversal, both sides agreed to push the expiration date ahead to Friday at 5 p.m. EDT; shortly after that compromise was reached, the CBS feed went back up.

CBS this afternoon said that it had offered TWC another extension but was refused. 

The blackout denies TWC subs in the top two DMAs and Dallas the opportunity to watch the summer smash Under the Dome and the long-running Big Brother, among other programs. Should the stalemate continue into September, customers are at risk of being shut out of CBS’ coverage of the National Football League

The first Sunday of the 2013 NFL season falls on Sept. 8. 

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