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CBS and Time Warner Cable reach deal, finally end month-long blackout

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Time Warner Cable logo
Time Warner Cable logo

CBS channels have been missing from Time Warner Cable for a full month now, but the companies have finally solidified a deal. In a press release, the companies report that they've reached a retransmission agreement, and CBS programming will return to all affected Time Warner Cable networks by 6PM Eastern today. In addition to traditional CBS channels, the deal will also reinstate content from Showtime, The Smithsonian Channel, and CBS Sports Network — just in time for the real NFL football kickoff this weekend.

For Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, the deal will also include a new feature: access to Showtime Anytime video-on-demand.

Neither company is saying how much TWC will pay for CBS content, or disclosing any other terms of the deal, but comments from both companies suggest that CBS came out on top. In a memo to employees, CBS CEO Les Moonves wrote that "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," he added.

Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO, issued a statement that was decidedly less enthused. "While we certainly didn't get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started," he wrote, asking that Congress and the FCC reconsider retransmission consent rules if they wish to prevent future programming blackouts.

"While we certainly didn't get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started."

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon L. Clyburn said she was "pleased" by the deal, but doesn't seem to think the government should be responsible for such blackouts. "At the end of the day, media companies should accept shared responsibility for putting their audience's interests above other interests and do all they can to avoid these kinds of disputes in the future," she said in a statement emailed to The Verge.

Time Warner Cable is currently hosting a FAQ for customers affected by the dispute. According to the answers there, Showtime and CBS on-demand content libraries might take up to 24 hours to be fully reinstated. The answer to another question suggests that TWC didn't end up ceding to all of CBS's demands:

Q: Did TWC end up paying 600% more for these stations than other markets?

We won't discuss specific deal terms. But no, we reached a deal that is significantly better than the one first proposed by CBS.

The CBS-TWC blackout originally began July 30th, though a last-ditch attempt to renegotiate kept channels on the air until August 2nd. Since that time, over three million TWC customers have reportedly been without access to live sports events, including NFL preseason games and golf's PGA Championship.

In hindsight, it seems to have been a shrewd move for CBS CEO Les Moonves to hold live sports hostage, but it's not the only game the combative CEO is playing these days. Read a bit more about the man behind the blackout in this article.