Both companies announced on Sunday that CBS programming would return to the Time Warner channel line-up as of 6.00 p.m. that evening. The timing means that Time Warner subscribers will have CBS access in time for the start of the National Football League regular season, and the new fall line-up of television shows.
Since early August, Time Warner subscribers in major media markets have been without CBS channels due to a dispute over content licensing fees. Time Warner was reportedly paying CBS less than $1 per subscriber before its latest contract expired, but the broadcast network was looking for a major raise before signing the dotted line on a contract renewal. (See TWC, CBS Fan Retransmission Flames.)
The cable provider balked at CBS's demands and subscribers lost access to the network's stations when both companies couldn't agree to terms.
The retransmission fight highlights growing tension between programmers and pay-TV operators as they try to navigate around new competition and new technology threats. (See Time Warner Cable Sacks CBS.)
As part of its ongoing battle against rising content costs, Time Warner Cable has asked the government to step in with measures to prevent broadcasters from threatening station blackouts during content licensing negotiations. In a corporate blog post published after the latest agreement with CBS, the company referenced efforts to get "Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to reassess the 21-year-old rules that allow this sort of broadcaster brinksmanship to happen in the first place."
Meanwhile, Time Warner offered its customers a taste of old-school technology while the blackout was underway. In a promotion designed to placate unhappy customers, the cable company made a gift of free TV antennas to enable traditional over-the-air television viewing. (See Free TV Antennas, Anyone?)
Presumably that gift is back in the box now that CBS is back on the air.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable