Cable Tech

Free TV Antennas, Anyone?

Time Warner Cable Inc. subscribers have been without cable access to CBS Corp. channels since early August. And since the battle shows no sign of winding down, TWC is now offering customers a very retro alternative -- namely, free over-the-air TV antennas.

In a company blog post, Time Warner Cable says it will hand out a free TV antenna to any cable subscriber affected by the CBS blackout. The move is a way to encourage viewers to watch the network the old-fashioned way -- by tuning in to free, over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts.

Customers can pick up their complimentary antennas at a TWC retail outlet as long as supplies last. Or they can purchase an antenna at a Best Buy store and receive a $20 rebate.

In addition, Time Warner Cable is giving away a free video-on-demand movie coupon and a free preview of the Starz Kids/Family network. It’s also offering free access to the Tennis Channel all the way through the end of the US Open tournament on September 9.

The antenna give-away has the ironic consequence of reminding viewers that there's a way to watch TV without a cable subscription. On the one hand, it's a signal to CBS that Time Warner cable is willing to play hardball with retransmission fees. (See Time Warner Cable Sacks CBS.)

But, on the other hand, if users have to switch TV inputs to watch CBS, why not do the same thing to watch more video with a Roku box or a Chromecast device? It's a fine line for TWC to walk.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

mendyk 8/28/2013 | 4:32:52 PM
Re: Population Unaware of Free OTA HD Programming At what point can you call this a breakdown? When pay TV in aggregate loses 10% market share? I mean, the demise of the movie business (i.e., the distribution side) has been predicted for decades. It hasn't gone away yet.
albreznick 8/28/2013 | 3:38:11 PM
Re: Population Unaware of Free OTA HD Programming Yep, I agree. I think the old business model for the pay TV business is breaking down. The big question is what kind of new model will emerge, if any. What are peoples' thoughts on that? 
Phil_Britt 8/27/2013 | 1:17:16 PM
Re: Population Unaware of Free OTA HD Programming Indeed, the recent Time Warner-CBS dispute could lead to more cord cutting. To read more on this, refer to the article in Service Provider IT Report (SPIT).

The current retransmission battle, even if settled before the NFL season, as many expect, will likely come up again between other video providers and cable firms as other contracts come up for renewal.

Price increases that are eventually passed along to the end customer have been the way these disputes are usually settled, but eventually the end customer will stop accepting the increases.
albreznick 8/27/2013 | 1:13:44 PM
Re: Population Unaware of Free OTA HD Programming Yeah, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, eh? Once this CBS thing finally gets settled, i wonder whether TWC will go back to those customers with the free OTA antennas and offer them free digital cable boxes to junk their antennas. And I wonder how many of those folks will decide they don't need cable anymore. Seems like a very risky strategy for TWC. Let's see how many antennas they end up hsnding out. 
kaop 8/26/2013 | 10:48:16 PM
Population Unaware of Free OTA HD Programming As if cutting the cord revolution isn't a concern for cable companies.  TWC could potentially lose customers by introducing them to the world of free OTA HD programming.
DOShea 8/26/2013 | 2:05:15 PM
Rabbit ears We all keep wondering how far these retransmission rumbles can go... far enough to create a run on rabbit ears? It's a good thing that cable guys have their growing business services efforts to fall back on.
Sarah Thomas 8/26/2013 | 12:40:26 PM
Aereo It's smart that TWC is offering a workaround, but it's pretty funny given how much heat Aereo has taken for its antenna-powered cable workaround. This could create good customer service vibes for TWC or provide free publicity for Aereo in the markets where it's available!
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