Glen Britt, Time Warner Cable’s Chairman and CEO, has made the first substantive move in the ongoing dispute over retransmission rates.
In an open letter to Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, Britt proposes that CBS make its stations available on an à la carte basis which would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming.
Britt’s letter, released to the media, read:
In the interest of getting CBS back on our cable systems today, we write to propose that CBS and Time Warner Cable immediately agree to resume carriage with the new economics TWC reluctantly agreed to during our negotiations, while employing all the other terms and conditions of our recently expired contracts. Although those terms are not ideal to CBS or TWC, and would leave TWC and our customers without the digital rights that CBS has provided to others, since both parties have lived under those terms productively for many years, we believe we should continue to live with them in the interest of restoring CBS immediately for the benefit of consumers.
Alternatively, if you are unwilling to agree to this proposal, we would also be willing to resume carriage by allowing CBS to make its stations available on an a la carte basis and on terms of its choosing, with 100% of that price remitted to CBS. This way, rather than debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming.
In connection with both of these proposals, we would expect you to allow us to immediately resume carriage of your CBS stations (and other CBS-programming services) on retroactive terms as we work out any necessary details. the extension would be ongoing to make sure consumers are not once again held hostage by CBS during this process. We expect, though, that since each of our proposals is very straight forward, the papers can be completed quickly.
Finally, we call on CBS regardless of whether it accepts or rejects our proposals, to immediately cease its blocking of CBS.com content from TWC’s high-speed Internet customers. Regardless of the other issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these Internet customers to blocking of content that is made available for free to all others. This is especially so given that CBS uses free public airwaves to broadcast that content and has public interest obligations that it is plainly flouting.
In addition, this conduct is abhorrent in that CBS is using this blocking to punish TWC’s Internet customers across the country, including millions of consumers in cities where we continue to carry CBS on our cable systems through agreements with other CBS-affiliated stations; is blocking customers of other multichannel providers, including DirectTV, with whom CBS has no dispute; and is apparently blocking customers of certain other ISPs, to which TWC provides wholesale Internet services.
We stand ready to speak with you immediately to follow up on these matters.