Time Warner Cable: We'll End Blackout If We Can Offer CBS A La Carte

11:34 AM PST 08/05/2013 by Alex Ben Block
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UPDATED: In a gesture CBS calls "a sham," TWC CEO Glenn Britt asks to resume negotiations immediately, and wants the network to stop blocking CBS.com content from its broadband customers.

Time Warner Cable's CEO Glenn Britt on Monday sent a letter to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves offering to immediately resume negotiations and end the blackout -- if the network will let them offer its stations on an a la carte basis.

Britt also called on CBS to immediately cease  blocking CBS.com content for its broadband customers.

Britt said that if CBS allows the cable network to resume carriage of the stations on an a la carte basis until a new contract is negotiated, 100 percent of the money would go to CBS. "This way," wrote Britt, "rather than our debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves  how much value they ascribe to CBS programming."

If CBS agrees to the TWC proposals, the nation's second largest cable system operator says, "the extension would be ongoing to make sure customers 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."

In asking CBS to stop block TWC broadband subscribers from its web site, which carries CBS shows, Britt wrote, "Regardless of the 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 conduct is abhorrent in that CBS is using this blocking to punish TWC's Internet customers across the country, including millions of consumes in cities where we continue to carry CBS on our cable systems through agreements with out CBS-affiliated stations."

In the letter, Britt noted that even if CBS agrees to let them resume carriage it would be with "the new economics TWC reluctantly agreed to during our negotiations" but "without the digital rights CBS has provided to others" which follows what the old contract mandated.

While the letter from Britt seems to be an olive branch, he also pokes at CBS by adding that Internet customers should not be blocked "given that CBS uses free public airwaves to broadcast that content and has public interest obligations that it is plainly flouting."

UPDATE: In response, CBS issued the following statement:

"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."

SECOND UPDATE: Time Warner Cable has responded to the CBS statement:

Our efforts to get CBS programming back for our customers are sincere, and we have offered two proposals to accomplish that, while CBS has offered nothing in return. In addition to our a la carte proposal, we've offered an increase and the exact same contractual terms both companies have successfully operated under for nearly five years. We cannot understand why that is not enough for CBS. We're disappointed in their lack of responsiveness, particularly to our request for them to quit unfairly blocking the free content available on CBS.com from our Internet customers. We hope they will return to the table to negotiate in good faith on behalf of our customers and their viewers.

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