If you live in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City, or one of several other cities and subscribe to Time Warner Cable, turning on your TV will give you nothing more than a white screen and a message saying the network made “outrageous demands” in regards to fees.
Time Warner and CBS are specifically at odds over payments called “retransmission consent” fees, which cable providers pay broadcasters for the right to carry their channels. CBS asked for an increase of 100 percent in the fees it receives, from $1 to $2 per subscriber. Time Warner refuses to pay it, though some of the largest cable networks, namely ESPN, command $5 per subscriber.
The stalemate has entered its fourth day—Time Warner cut off CBS and Showtime in some of its markets Friday—and both companies are turning to the public for the upper hand.
Both companies took out full-page ads in newspapers, the Associated Press reports
. One of CBS’ ads showed a TV displaying “The Big Bang Theory” and “Big Brother,” among other shows, along with the message, “Call Time Warner Cable now. Tell them you want your CBS 2 back!”
Surprisingly, some of Time Warner’s messaging seems to be encouraging viewers to watch CBS through an antenna.
The tussle has gone online
, too. CBS has voluntarily cut off online streaming of full episodes of its shows on CBS.com for people using Time Warner’s Internet service.
Meanwhile, Time Warner is directing customers to Aereo, a service which enables people to watch broadcast signals over the Internet.
Several New York Times
columnists have weighed in on the spat, with many convinced the public fight is doing more harm than good for both brands. Media columnist David Carr put it succinctly into a tweet:
Here’s more of what he had to say in a column
Pretending that you are fighting on our behalf rather than in the interests of your shareholders and executives is infantilizing and unbecoming. CBS is coming off another record year, Time Warner Cable's stock is storming along, and the fight over retransmission fees is about how the pie is sliced, nothing more.
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Of course, this isn’t the first time a TV provider and a network had a public spat. Dish Network dropped AMC
last year, and Cablevision cut Fox from 3 million homes for a period in 2010. Still, this new fight probably won’t do much to help customers feel better about media providers on either side.