One day before the Los Angeles City Council vowed to begin to aggressively address the issue of Time Warner Cable blacking out two local CBS channels, the two battling media companies reached a carriage agreement Monday afternoon restoring the service to more than one million Southern California customers.
More likely, the deal was expedited by the fact that CBS begins coverage of the NFL on opening weekend Sept. 8, and advertisements had aired warning viewers they could miss those games if the dispute hadn’t been resolved.
The two sides had been laboring over the details of the agreement since Aug. 2 before dropping it in the middle of the Labor Day holiday viewing audience.
The agreement was not reached in time for L.A. viewers to see some of the KCBS-Channel 2 morning coverage of the rain-delayed U.S. Open tennis championships in New York. But it was done for many Dodgers fans to see the team’s game at Colorado pop up on their TWC system at 3 p.m. just as Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw drove in two runs with a single to tie the game at 5-5 in the fifth inning.
Monday’s game, as well as the rest of the Dodgers’ three-game series in Colorado this week, are all on KCAL-Channel 9, also owned by CBS.
No financial settlement was disclosed. Some 1.3 million of the 5.6 million households in L.A. are TWC subscribers. The month-long blackout that started Aug. 2 had affected about 3.2 million customers also in New York and Dallas.
“The NFL is the biggest ratings event in all of television,” said Neal Pilson, founder of Pilson Communications and the former president of CBS Sports, told Fox Business. “NFL football is a pretty important property in those cities. The sports audience is passionate, not passive.”
The retransmission consent deal allowed TWC customers to resume seeing all CBS programming, including the Showtime premium cable channel and, in some areas, CBS Sports Network, which was also airing the U.S. Open tennis championships Monday night.
CBS Sports Net, however, recently aired USC football’s season opening game in Hawaii without a blackout on TWC systems.
Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement: “We’re pleased to be able to restore CBS programming for our customers, and appreciate their patience and loyalty throughout the dispute. As in all of our negotiations, we wanted to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience for our customers. While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started.”
CBS president Les Moonves wrote in a memo to network staff members: “The final agreements with Time Warner Cable deliver to us all the value and terms that we sought in these discussions. We are receiving fair compensation for CBS content and we also have the ability to monetize our content going forward on all the new, developing platforms that are right now transforming the way people watch television.”
Some consumer advocates had been asking the U.S. Congress, currently in recess until next week, and the Federal Communications Commission, without a permanent leader, to intercede and advocate for an agreement between the two multi-billion-dollar companies who had been arguing about whether TWC should receive as much as $2 per subscriber for CBS-related channels.
Three weeks ago, FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said she would take “appropriate action” if the public debate continued.
The L.A. City Council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee adopted a resolution that backed FCC involvement in any legislation or administrative action in the dispute. The Council had invited reps from TWC and CBS to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“More than 1 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Los Angeles area have lost access to KCBS-TV Channel 2 and such hit series as ‘Under the Dome’ as well as local news and sports, including Dodger games, on KCAL-TV Channel 9,” the commission’s draft resolution read.
It included: “The blackout is coming at a bad time for local advertisers that are promoting back-to-school retail sales and end-of-the-model year car clearance sales.”
Last week, CBS announced a new carriage agreement with Verizon FIOS subscribers.