Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 6, 2013
A bitter battle between CBS and Time Warner Cable dragged on Monday, leaving many cable subscribers nationwide — including thousands in Central Texas — unable to watch some of TV’s most popular shows for a fourth straight night.
In Austin, viewers still have access to CBS programming airing on local affilate KEYE, but they’ve been without several CBS-owned cable networks including Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian and CBS Primetime on Demand since late Friday.
The fight is, in part, over retransmission fees Time Warner is required by federal law to pay in order to carry CBS-owned local TV stations in some of the largest U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles and, closer to home, Dallas.
KEYE is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, not CBS, and is immune to 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 spokeswoman told the American-Statesman. Showtime will be replaced temporarily with the premium Starz network, she said, while Encore will take TMC’s spot.
The feud isn’t just affecting Time Warner’s cable TV customers. Anyone with Internet service from Time Warner has been blocked from streaming programming on CBS.com, even if they get their cable or satellite service from a separate provider, such as AT&T, Dish Network, DirecTV or Verizon.
Time Warner Cable has said in recent weeks that CBS is seeking a sizable increase in the retransmission fees it receives, at one point telling subscribers that the top-rated broadcast network was looking to hike its rates by as much as 600 percent. CBS executives say that figure is inaccurate, saying what they want is "far more reasonable and well in line with what the industry is paying for content," without offering particulars.
According to published reports, CBS currently receives about $1 per subscriber per month.
In a letter made public Monday afternoon, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt extended a pair of new offers, either of which he said could put the missing networks back on the air almost immediately if CBS agreed.
The cable giant said it was willing 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."
Alternately, Britt offered to make the local TV stations that CBS owns available on an a la carte basis, with the network keeping 100 percent of whatever it chooses to charge viewers.
"This way, rather than debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming," Britt wrote.
CBS had no immediate response to Time Warner Cable’s offers.