Time Warner Cable blocks CBS stations in fees row

US operator Time Warner Cable (TWC) has withdrawn CBS owned-and-operated stations from its cable operations in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, after the two broadcast giants failed to agree to a deal on retransmission fees.

TWC, the second-largest multi-system operator in the US, had initially withdrawn the CBS stations for less than half an hour on 30 July, agreeing to restore the feeds and continue negotiations.

Failure to reach an agreement between the two by 5pm on 2 August saw TWC drop CBS in the three cities. TWC has also dropped three CBS-owned cable networks – Showtime, TMC, Flix and Smithsonian Channel – from the cities.

TWC said that CBS had demanded a 600% increase in retransmission fees.

In a statement, TWC said: “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.”

TWC added: “Unfortunately, despite our continued efforts to reach agreement, CBS has been uncompromising – making demands that are completely inconsistent with the agreements we’ve reached with hundreds of other broadcasters. We regret that CBS has put Time Warner Cable and, most importantly, our customers in this position.”

But, in its own statement on Friday, CBS said: “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% increase CBS supposedly demanded – while maintaining antiquated positions no longer held by any other programming distributor in the business.

“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.”

Later, pay-TV provider DirecTV – whose own content was now blocked to TWC internet users – came out in support of TWC.

“We are also appalled to learn that CBS is now punishing DirecTV customers, who may happen to have Time Warner as their internet provider, by denying them access to CBS content online. The conduct of content companies in their efforts to extract outrageous fees from distributors and consumers may have reached a new low.”

CBS said this was the first time it had been dropped from a cable system. Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, had “a long history” of taking channels off air – more than 50 in the last five years alone.

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