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Time Warner drops CBS, Showtime as carriage dispute continues

Time Warner Cable has yanked CBS-owned broadcast and pay television channels from its lineup as the two companies continue to bicker over carriage fees.

A Time Warner Cable service truck in California (Flickr: Carbon Arc)
A Time Warner Cable service truck in California (Flickr: Carbon Arc)

The cable company initially removed CBS-owned broadcast stations in seven metro areas, including the top three TV markets, as well as CBS-owned cable channels including Showtime and the Smithsonian Channel on July 29. Those channels were restored at the request of CBS as negotiations continued.

Time Warner again dropped the channels on Friday while the discussions were continuing. CBS claims they offered Time Warner an extension which was not agreed to. Along with the removal of the channels, Time Warner suspended CBS’s on-demand programming nationwide.

Broadcasters are legally permitted to force cable companies to carry local channels, however most broadcasters that are owned by large corporations do not enforce this rule, opting for compensation in exchange for carriage on a cable company. This stipulation often leads to carriage disputes when cable companies refuse to yield to the demand of broadcasters that want an increase in retransmission fees.

Time Warner claims CBS is asking for a 600 percent increase in retransmission fees for its broadcast and cable channels. CBS disputes this, though it will not disclose how much it is asking Time Warner to pay.

While the dispute plays out, Time Warner is encouraging viewers to watch CBS programming with an antenna or online. In New York and Boston, Time Warner is also encouraging customers to sign up for Aereo, an online pay television provider that streams broadcast channels (CBS and Aereo have sued each other over the past year over retransmission rights and copyright issues).

Time Warner is encouraging customers to complain to CBS by calling (212) 975-4321; CBS is encouraging viewers to complaint to Time Warner by calling (800) 892-2253.

The channels Time Warner has blacked out during the CBS carriage dispute are:

CBS-owned cable channels were also removed from Bright House Networks, a cable operator that services small towns in five states. Through an arrangement with Time Warner, Bright House piggybacks off some carriage agreements made with the larger cable service. One such agreement was with CBS — when the channels went dark on Time Warner, they also became unavailable on Bright House.

In addition to the cable channels, Bright House customers also lost access to WWJ-TV in Detroit, WTOG in Tampa and KCAL in Bakersfield, California.

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