Time Warner blacks out CBS stations in major markets

USA Today | Variety | Los Angeles Times | The Wall Street Journal

At  5 p.m. EDT Friday, Time Warner Cable began blacking out CBS programming in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The blackout follows contentious negotiations between the network and cable company over retransmission fees, which cable companies pay TV stations for the rights to carry their signals. Three million subscribers are affected.

For some stations, such as WBZ, KCNC, WKBD and KDKA, the blackout only affects part of their coverage areas, where Time Warner Cable is the provider, but not the main metro areas they serve. Variety’s Todd Spangler lists the affected stations:

Those stations are: WCBS and WLNY (independent) in New York; KCBS and KCAL (independent) in L.A.; KTVT and KTXA (independent) in Dallas; WBZ and WSBK (independent) in Boston; KDKA and WPCW (The CW) in Pittsburgh; WBBM in Chicago; WKBD (The CW) in Detroit; and KCNC in Denver.


Some networks, including Showtime and the Smithsonian Channel, “are also going dark for customers nationwide,” Spangler writes.

CBS also blocked Time Warner customers from watching online, Joe Flint reports:

When a Time Warner Cable broadband customer requests to see a CBS show on the CBS website, the words “content not available” appear at the top of the screen and then an ad critical of the cable company appears.

Both CBS and Time Warner Cable took to social media and online sites to air their sides of the broken negotiations.

CBS said:

Time Warner Cable refuses to fairly compensate us for being one of the most watched networks on their programming line-up.

Time Warner posted:

CBS Corporation, the owner of several TV networks and broadcast TV stations, has made outrageous demands for the right to continue delivering their programming to our customers.  As a result, several CBS-owned channels have been removed from your lineup, while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms.

We deeply regret being forced into this position by CBS, but we’re prepared to stand by our customers and do what it takes to fight these unreasonable demands.”

Time Warner also produced an saying CBS is demanding 600 percent more than in other markets.

In an FAQ, CBS said its demands “are far more reasonable and well in line with what the industry is paying for content.”

As the blackout rolled into the weekend, WCBS New York reminded fans that they would miss the Bridgestone Invitational Golf Tournament, which Tiger Woods is leading. Next week, the station will carry the Jets/Lions NFL game and the PGA Championship.

CBS properties in Los Angeles are warning viewers they will miss Dodgers and Chargers games next week.

The network urges riled sports fans to flood Time Warner’s complaint lines and emails.

The dispute “highlights growing tensions between TV channel owners and distributors,” Shalini Ramachandran writes in The Wall Street Journal. Retransmission fees “have become increasingly important to broadcasters such as CBS, which has said it expects retransmission revenue to roughly quadruple to $1 billion a year by 2017, helping diversify broadcasters’ revenue away from a heavy reliance on advertising.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s website directs viewers how to use an external antenna to capture over-the-air signals.

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  • jrhmobile

    One of these days, the cable companies are going to figure out that the FCC’s “Must Carry” rules for retransmitting broadcast TV stations doesn’t translate into “Must Pay To Carry It.”

    The first cable operator who says “Here’s the free channel — you can use it for nothing” is going to knock this house of cards flat and end this silly shakedown once and for all.