Millions of Time Warner Cable customers were left in the dark on Friday when contract negotiations between CBS and the cable operator failed to come to an agreement. As day two of the shut-out comes to a close, more than 3.5 million Time Warner Cable customers in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas are feeling the effects. Viewer favorites like “The Big Bang Theory”, “NCIS” and the Showtime network are all currently unavailable in these areas.
An industry practice known as “re-transmission fees” appears to be the main point of contention between the cable operator and CBS network. It is increasingly common for cable networks to require operators to pay a per-viewer fee to transmit programs to customers.
In past contracts, the two companies agreed on a $1 a month per subscriber fee. However, CBS now wants Time Warner to pay $2 per subscriber, most likely due to its current status as the No. 1-rated broadcast network in the U.S. However, CBS also has significantly more content than its lower fee counterparts.
According to Maureen Huff, a spokesperson for Time Warner Cable, a 1-year contract extension was on the table before the blackout occurred. However, Huff also told Reuters that CBS “refused to have a productive discussion.” According to a representative for CBS, the operator “conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit.”
If this battle of the cable titans seems familiar, it should. A similar scenario played out last summer when DirectTV and Viacom took 10 days to reach an agreement, leaving 20 million viewers without access to networks like MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as others.
Likewise, back in 2010, Cablevision and Fox had their own battle for 15 days — causing more than 3 million people to miss out on much of the World Series.
With Time Warner Cable and CBS in staunch disagreement over contract fees it could be another cruel summer for cable viewers across the U.S.