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CBS says Time Warner Cable a la carte proposal is 'a sham'

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Time Warner Cable logo (1020)
Time Warner Cable logo (1020)

The showdown between CBS and Time Warner Cable is now being waged by CEOs. In a letter addressed to CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves, Time Warner Cable chairman Glen Britt says the cable provider is ready to resume broadcasting the network's channels "with the new economics TWC reluctantly agreed to" in recent negotiations. Other terms from their previous contracts would carry over to this new deal. "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."

Britt said the three magic words

If CBS doesn't like that idea, Britt has another proposal ready — one many consumers have long been pining for. "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," Britt writes. Such a move would theoretically allow Time Warner Cable's subscribers to individually decide which CBS stations (including TMC, Flix, Showtime, and The Smithsonian Channel) to include in their channel package. "This way, rather than debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming." Just don't get too excited; Britt knows better than anyone that Moonves and CBS are unlikely to ever agree to such terms, and the consumer-friendly suggestion is more a matter of positioning than a legitimate negotiation tactic.

Whichever way CBS goes on the proposals, Britt wants the company to immediately stop blocking content from his internet customers. The cable blackout only affects viewers in certain markets, but CBS is leaving TWC's entire base of internet users without access to programming.

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.

Update: CBS tells Variety that a la carte isn't on the table, calling TWC's proposal "a sham":

"Today's so-called proposal is a sham, a public relations vehicle designed to distract from the fact that Time Warner Cable is not negotiating in good faith. Anyone familiar with the entertainment business knows that the economics and structure of the cable industry doesn't work that way and isn't likely to for quite some time. In short, this was an empty gesture from a company that is expert at them."