Time Warner Cable Customers Miss Out On CBS

For two weeks, customers with Time Warner Cable in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas have been unable to watch CBS with their cable box. Time Warner and CBS disagree over how much the cable company should be paying the television network for transmitting its shows.

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Speaking of two TV heavyweights duking it out, for the past two weeks, Time Warner Cable has blocked CBS programs from its subscribers in Los Angeles, New York City and Dallas. Negotiations continue over the fees the cable company is being asked to pay the network, in order to retransmit its shows. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports that this is the latest - and one of the longest - such feuds.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: If you can't get CBS on your Time Warner Cable, here's what you missed in the past two weeks: "Big Brother's" double elimination, complete with roommate smack talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BIG BROTHER")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: That's why I'm a better dresser than you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Get an education. Get on my level, Boo, because you're not. You're disgusting.

DEL BARCO: And you also lost out on the gun battle and fistfights between surviving neighbors in CBS's summer hit "Under the Dome."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "UNDER THE DOME")

DEL BARCO: CBS chair Les Moonves says he's not budging from his stance that the most-watched TV network should be fairly compensated. During the blackout, CBS is running ads online.

(SOUNDBITE OF ONLINE AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: No "Big Bang Theory." No "60 Minutes."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What are we going to do about it?

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Say no to Time Warner Cable.

DEL BARCO: But Time Warner Cable says it's not their fault.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: The fact is, CBS is at war with their own viewers - taking away your shows and sports, and demanding an outrageous price increase to return them.

DEL BARCO: CBS refused to comment for this story, but here's Time Warner Cable spokesman Dennis Johnson.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Customers don't want their cable bills to go up and CBS - as well as others - are asking for more and more fee increases for programming. That is why we're trying to hold the line, and fight for our customers.

DEL BARCO: Time Warner Cable also shut down CBS on Showtime, Movie Channel to all its customers around the country, though it offered to repay them later. CBS has retaliated by blocking access to its free online shows to all Time Warner customers. The FCC's acting chair, Mignon Clyburn, even got into the mix.

MIGNON CLYBURN: I am really distressed that consumers and viewers are being adversely affected, and I am urging - we continue to urge all parties to stay and resolve, in good faith, this issue as soon as possible.

DEL BARCO: Variety's New York digital editor, Todd Spangler, says the Time Warner-CBS battle is one of the longer and more high-profile dust-ups between cable providers, and TV and cable stations.

TODD SPANGLER: The conventional wisdom here is that content always wins. You know, at a certain point, Time Warner Cable will cave and agree to some sort of compromise on the terms and the fees that they're fighting about.

DEL BARCO: Spangler says such feuds happen every few months. He notes that viewers also have many more choices in how they watch shows: online streaming, satellite networks, things like Netflix or Amazon, or even tapping into the regular broadcast signal. You can still watch CBS with good, old-fashioned TV antennas.

(SOUNDBITE OF BACKGROUND MUSIC, CHATTER)

DEL BARCO: At a sports bar in LA's Crenshaw neighborhood, some customers say they've already migrated away from cable TV, and you hear them complain about the CBS blackout.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You know, I would slap them upside the head...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: CBS and Time Warner - sure.

DEL BARCO: NFL fan Andrew Hunter predicts the blackout will be over by the end of the month.

ANDREW HUNTER: You know, it's August. Football begins in September, and they're holding the customers hostage. It's normal - normal practice. (Laughing)

DEL BARCO: Time Warner Cable and CBS say they're back at the negotiating table, but there's already a class-action lawsuit asking that subscribers be reimbursed for shows and movies they're missing during the blackout.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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