Time Warner Cable, CBS Still Fighting; Customers Wait For Inevitable Rate Hike

hamsterwatchSix full days into Time Warner Cable’s blackout of CBS in several major markets and Showtime nationwide and neither side is willing to admit that all this screaming and yelling is really just hurting the customers, who are hiding in the bedroom with their ear against the door waiting for it all to end.

Of course, when the fighting stops, TWC and CBS are just going to take out their anger on the poor customers in the form of higher bills.

Reuters reports that reps for the network and the nation’s second-largest terrestrial cable company met today to dicker over decimals.

One CBS exec, presumably taking a break from watching the Big Brother live feeds on his phone, said that while negotiations are ongoing, they have “gone badly off course.” The network claims that TWC’s demands would make it difficult for the broadcaster to make deals with Netflix and Amazon, the latter of which has been streaming CBS’s summer hit Under the Dome for free to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Meanwhile at today’s hearing, Rory Whelan — who is not a silent film star but is actually Time Warner Cable’s regional vice president of government relations — accused CBS of “coercive bundling practices” referring to broadcasters’ practice of forcing cable and satellite providers to accept bundles of channels just to get one or two desired stations.

In a rare case of someone from TWC saying anything I’d agree with, Whelan described CBS’s decision to block all TWC customers from accessing CBS.com content as conduct “beyond the pale.”

Testimony from CBS exec Martin Franks seems to make it clear that the heart of CBS’s problem with the proposed deal is TWC’s demand of archived content. The cable company doesn’t want to pay for that content — presumably for streaming — but CBS says it can’t simply give away content that companies like Netflix already pay “millions of dollars to distribute.”

Theorized Franks, “Perhaps their real aim here is to use those outdated terms to hamstring our ability to do business with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and other new entrants that pose a new competitive threat to their former, cozy, unchallenged monopoly status.”

Franks even went so far as to say that Time Warner Cable wants these terms to deliberately hurt these online competitors. “CBS is not going to become Time Warner Cable’s accomplice in trying to throttle those new services,” he announced, before leading the rest of the Delta house members out of the hearing room (at least that’s how we imagine it happening).

In the hearing, TWC brought up the peace-offering-cum-provocation offered up by CEO Glenn Britt, in which he made two suggestions to CBS — get your channels back on the air under the existing terms while we hammer out a long-term deal, or offer CBS as an a la carte channel at whatever price the network chooses. While TWC insists the letter was a genuine offer, the real purpose was to highlight to the public how much CBS doesn’t want anyone to know how much it charges cable companies to retransmit their network feeds (which are free if you have an antenna).

Let me take this opportunity to remind you that neither Time Warner Cable nor CBS cares one ounce about anything other than your money. To Time Warner, you’re nothing but a monthly subscription (and modem rental) fee. To CBS, you’re nothing but someone to advertise to (and to take for carriage fees via the cable company).

I’m not saying these companies should love you; that would be silly. Just don’t be misled by either party’s propaganda when, in the end, you will be worse off with higher cable rates and more ads being shoved down your eye sockets.

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