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CBS/Time Warner Cable settle month-long blackout dispute

By Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Less than a week before CBS begins flexing its NFL might, the No. 1-rated network and Time Warner Cable ended their month-long stalemate Labor Day evening and cut a new deal.

CBS programming was restored at 5 p.m. Monday, ending a blackout that primarily affected some 3.2 million TWC subscribers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. The agreement also returned cable networks Showtime, Smithsonian Channel and CBS Sports Network to TWC homes. In Dallas, TXA21, sister station of CBS11, also had been affected, with Friday night Texas Rangers games the most notable casualty.

Terms of the agreement typically were not disclosed, with CBS issuing a no-frills, one-paragraph statement late Monday afternoon. In a separate memo to CBS employees, corporation president and CEO Leslie Moonves said, “The final agreements with Time Warner Cable deliver to us all the value and terms that we sought in these discussions. We are receiving fair compensation for CBS content and we also have the ability to monetize our content going forward on all the new, developing platforms that are right now transforming the way people watch television.”

TWC chairman and CEO Glenn Britt told his employees: “As in all of our negotiations, we wanted to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience for our customers. While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than where we started.”

It’s been widely reported that CBS wanted a monthly increase in TWC’s retransmission fee from about $1 to $2 per subscriber. The two sides fought a war of words before and throughout most of August, with newspapers in the three major affected TV markets benefiting the most financially from a windfall of full-page ads.

The imminent arrival of the NFL’s regular season, followed by the official start of the new 2013-14 TV season on Sept. 23rd, put increasing pressure on TWC to either settle or face a possibly serious erosion in its customer base. The NFL in particular, with games beginning Sunday, Sept. 8th on CBS after this Thursday night’s “Kickoff” game on NBC, was seen as the major weapon in CBS’ arsenal.

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