DirecTV backs TWC in CBS retrans row

US pay-TV provider DirecTV has come out in support of Time Warner Cable in its retransmission dispute with CBS, suggesting that the conduct of content companies had “reached a new low” in such battles.

After failing to reach agreement by a 5pm deadline on August 2nd, Time Warner Cable (TWC) dropped the network in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and several other markets. That deadline was one of a number set since the existing contract expired at the end of June. In the meantime, the network was kept on the cable company’s line-up.

“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,” said TWC CEO Glenn Britt in a statement. “As a result, we were unable to reach an agreement by this evening’s deadline and we are no longer authorised to carry the CBS-owned broadcast affiliates, such as KCBS Los Angeles, WCBS New York, and KTVT Dallas, as well as other CBS-owned cable networks, such as Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian and CBS Primetime on Demand programming. We regret that CBS has put Time Warner Cable and, most importantly, our customers in this position.”

“We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself,” said CBS, in a statement. 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% 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. This is the first time in its history that CBS has been dropped from a cable system. Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, has a long history of taking channels off the air – more than 50 in the last five years alone. It has also chosen to drop Showtime, which is owned by CBS, a move that is completely unnecessary and totally punitive to its subscribers.

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. We will not accept less. We will not sign away rights not granted to others. We will not give up our channel position or any other asset by which our viewers identify us. We will also not be subjected to pointless maneuvers like a series of one-hour extensions and mini-drops that do nothing for either side but annoy our viewers. We hope and believe this period of darkness will be short and that we can all get back to the business of providing the best entertainment, news and sports to the Time Warner Cable customers we both serve.”

“Please know that Time Warner Cable is at war with no one. We exist as a company to connect people to the things they love and CBS’s shows and sports are a few of those things. We want to put CBS back on the air at a price that makes sense for us and our customers. That’s not war, that’s what our customers say they want – good programming at a fair price and on reasonable terms. We hope CBS will join us at the negotiating table and agree to a contract that is in the best interest of not only CBS, but everyone who enjoys watching television,” concluded Britt.

“Just like the characters in CBS’s Under The Dome, all pay TV customers are feeling trapped and helpless as broadcasters expect them to absorb ridiculous rate increases for the exact same programming. In trying to protect our own customers, DirecTV has certainly had its share of these battles, so we applaud Time Warner Cable for fighting back against exorbitant programming cost increases. 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,” said DirecTV.

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