Time Warner CEO Suggests Offering CBS A La Carte to its Customers

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

August 5th, 2013

Time Warner Logo

The CBS-Time Warner dispute threatens to leave millions of customers in Los Angeles, Dallas and New York City without access to CBS and Showtime programming including tonight's episode of Under the Dome and the upcoming Dexter finale. Monday morning  Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt sent  CBS chief Les Moonves a letter proposing that the network either accept the terms that TWC "reluctantly agreed" to during negotiations or become the first broadcast channel to be offered a la carte to cable customers. Via Deadline, here's the letter

Dear Les,

In the interests of getting CBS back on our cable systems today, we write to propose that CBS and Time Warner Cable immediately agree to resume carriage with the new economics TWC reluctantly agreed to during our negotiations, while employing all the other terms and conditions of our recently expired contracts. Although those terms are not ideal to CBS or TWC, and would leave TWC and our customers without the digital rights that CBS has provided to others, since both parties have lived under those terms productively for many years, we believe we should continue to live with them in the interest of restoring CBS immediately for the benefit of consumers.

Alternatively, if you are unwilling to agree to this proposal, we would also be willing to resume carriage by allowing CBS to make its stations available on an a la carte basis at a price and on terms of its choosing, with 100% of that price remitted to CBS. This way, rather than our debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming.

In connection with both of these proposals, we would expect you to allow us to immediately resume carriage of your CBS stations (and other CBS-programming services) on retroactive terms as we work out any necessary details. The extension would be ongoing to make sure consumers are not once again held hostage by CBS during this process. We expect, though, that since each of our proposals is very straight forward, the papers can be completed quickly.

Finally, we call on CBS regardless of whether it accepts or rejects our proposals, to immediately cease its blocking of CBS.com content from TWC’s high-speed Internet customers. Regardless of the other issues between us, it is surely beyond the pale for you to subject these Internet customers to blocking of content that is made available for free to all others. This is especially so given that CBS uses free public airwaves to broadcast that content and has public interest obligations that it is plainly flouting. In addition, this conduct is abhorrent in that CBS is using this blocking to punish TWC’s Internet customers
across the country, including millions of consumers in cities where we continue to carry CBS on our cable systems through agreements with other CBS-affiliated stations; is blocking customers of other multichannel providers, including Direct TV, with whom CBS has no dispute; and is apparently blocking customers of certain other ISP’s, to which TWC provides wholesale Internet services.

We stand ready to speak with you immediately to follow up on these matters.

  • TV Gord

    He knows damn well CBS isn’t going to go for that! Talk about disingenuous!

  • Ted

    This is garbage – it’s a pissing contest between two mega-rich corporations with no consideration for customers.

    As a TWC customer, if I chose not to pay for CBS a la carte, would my current tier of service be cheaper by the same cost of CBS? NO. TWC will just tell me the bundle is worth the same price, even though it would be missing the #1 network in America.

    Maybe I’ll buy a digital antenna to get FREE BROADCAST CBS and just cancel cable all together.

  • AL

    This is the kind of foolishness that encourages media piracy. If you don’t give customers what they want, when they want it, for a price they deem fair, people will still find it all, and they’ll get it faster, easier, and cheaper.

  • james

    remember all those times that tv channels begged people to stop torrenting and watch it on the actual channel?

    yea, its things like this that stop me from listening to them.

  • Fake Me Out

    Of course CBS will not agree to a la carte since they know that likely 80% or more of the cable customers wouldn’t subscribe unless they reduced their fee to pennies per month.

    I would LOVE to see a la carte as a choice become law here and in the US. So many channels get propped up by being in a package and they get their money each month regardless of the number of viewers.

    Up here we have Sun News (think Faux News North) that is demanding to be forced into each home and then they get their monthly fee despite the fact that many days their viewers number in the 1,000s …that’s right, thousands … not millions, not hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands but thousands … less people watching their channel across the country than those living in one of the bigger Toronto apartment complexes. Both Sun News and CBS know a la carte is just another way of saying huge revenue cuts and in the case of Sun News, bankruptcy. And they’re not alone, virtually every broadcast net and specialty channel would face the same fate if a la carte was an option.


  • Anna Bones Clarkwood

    The argument against ala carte, is kinda interesting & I’m willing to hear the full argument.

    In essence, The TV Bill is full of the few services you want, road maintenance, military defense, education (if you have kids & public schools) but also things you don’t use or want, Planned Parenthood, PBS, Free Healthcare to everyone.

    The argument is that the TV Bill is like Taxes, that you can opt out of. But if you opt in, you are helping hundreds of thousands of people in the media business make a living. These people are of course the rich guys, but they are also actors, stage crew, sound, producers, writers, ad developers & the list goes on & on.

  • Anthony

    He knows damn well CBS isn’t going to go for that! Talk about disingenuous!

    Then that would be CBS being disingenuous not Time Warner. CBS has been posturing since this whole thing started that it is the most watched network, that viewers want their product and demanding higher prices for such. Time Warner disagrees and says that the product isn’t worth what CBS wants. Time Warner is now offering to allow CBS to charge what it deems it’s product is worth. That should be a win for CBS, if it fails to accept then, they have been disingenuous in their stance all along (it signals that they KNOW they are trying to charge more than consumers deem their product value to be). I love that Time Warner is doing this, calling CBS’s bluff. Also if CBS takes this, it could finally lead to the de-bundling of cable all together which would be amazing.

  • cb

    >>Maybe I’ll buy a digital antenna to get FREE BROADCAST CBS and just cancel cable all together.<<

    That is exactly what I did last summer. Between Digital Antenna, Hulu and Networks online players I have not missed a single show I have wanted to see.

    It is also how I watched The Talk this afternoon and will be watching Under the Dome tonight, while my neighbors with Time Warner here in NYC will get the free preview of Starz Kids.

  • BoSox Juan

    In large markets you can get a paper thin digital antenna from RCA that can rest on a window sil & connects to either an HD TV or a digital box for an SD one. Where I live, I get over 70 channels that way. We have 6 tv’s as we are a family of 5, & 3 of them are hooked up to cable. Even those have the OTA connection because cable doesn’t pick up all the local channels. The cost of that paper think antenna is under $15.

    I applaud TWC for doing this because it sure sounds like CBS reniged on a former agreement. TWC can’t let them get away with that. I look forward to the CBS response, because TWC pointed out an action by CBS that violates the FCC in blocking access for the area of TWC customers & not just TWC customers.

  • BoSox Juan

    These disputes are becoming more prevalent because Netflix is causing consumers to re-evaluate the value of tv services. They are 2nd only to Encore in homes now, & to get to that 40mil range they know they need tv. If cable/dish won’t let them in, they’ll go the local route.

    Buy leasing space from local stations, they can get as many as 7 encrypted Netflix 27/7 channels. The set top box would decrypt the digital signal for output to HD or SD tv’s. Before cable/dish there were local premium services over UHF signals. Doing it now would be so much easier.

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures