Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 3, 2013
A long-brewing battle between CBS and Time Warner Cable came to a head Friday night, leaving many cable subscribers nationwide - including thousands in Central Texas - without access to some of the most popular shows on TV today.
In Austin, viewers still have access to CBS programming airing on KEYE, but they’ve lost several CBS-owned cable networks including Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian and CBS Primetime on Demand.
The fight is over fees Time Warner Cable is required by federal law to pay in order to carry CBS-owned TV stations in some of the largest U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles and, closer to home, Dallas.
KEYE, Austin’s local CBS affiliate, is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group - not CBS - and is immune from the blackout.
In the Austin area, and elsewhere across the U.S., Showtime and TMC subscribers will see a credit on their bills to compensate for the missed channels, a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman told the American-Statesman Friday night. Showtime will be replaced temporarily with the Starz network, she said, while Encore will take TMC’s spot.
Time Warner has claimed in recent days that CBS is asking for as much as a 600-percent increase in what it’s currently paid; CBS executives say that’s hogwash.
"It is often said that these disputes are just two giant corporations fighting over money," Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in an online message to subscribers. "But the skyrocketing price of programming has a direct impact on your monthly cable bill. If we paid CBS what they are asking, the next broadcaster or programmer would ask us - and others like FiOS, AT&T and DirecTV - for even higher prices next time. Cable bills would skyrocket. You’d be mad. We’d be mad. It won’t end well for anyone. So we have to take a tough stand in these negotiations and fight to hold down the price we all end up paying for programming and to carry on reasonable and customary terms."
In its message to viewers, CBS claims Time Warner Cable is providing its customers with inaccurate information to win their support.
"We are not looking for a 600-percent increase," the network said. "We cannot discuss specifics, but we do want you to know that our requests are far more reasonable and well in line with what the industry is paying for content. While we are by far the most-watched network in the country, there are many more networks that are much less viewed than CBS that Time Warner Cable pays considerably more money for. We are only seeking to be paid fairly for our quality, popular programming including such programs as ‘Under The Dome,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ‘NCIS’ and others, plus a host of sports and news programming."
In addition to being unable to watch CBS shows on air, the network has also blocked Time Warner Cable subscribers nationwide from streaming shows online, Time Warner Cable told the American-Statesman.
"CBS has shown utter lack of regard for consumers by blocking Time Warner Cable’s customers, including our high-speed, data-only customers, from accessing their shows," the area’s largest cable provider said in a statement. "CBS enjoys the privilege of using public-owned airwaves to deliver their programming - they should not be allowed to abuse that privilege."