Press-Republican

Entertainment

August 31, 2013

CBS blackout dispute threatens football fans

NEW YORK (AP) — It's one thing for a business dispute to knock out CBS programming in some three million homes during rerun season. Football season is another matter entirely, and there's little immediate cause for optimism.

There's been no reported progress in negotiations between CBS Corp. and Time Warner, which has blocked CBS programming from its customers' homes in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York since Aug. 2. They are at odds over a deal to carry CBS on Time Warner, most prominently over retransmission fees that the cable operator pays to CBS per subscriber.

Talks are expected to continue over the Labor Day weekend. Meanwhile, Time Warner customers caught in the middle will miss third and fourth round competition in the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The tournament's finals are next weekend, along with opening weekend in the National Football League.

CBS believes the start of football will increase public pressure on Time Warner to get a deal. The network has run radio advertisements with football announcers like James Brown instructing affected fans on other ways to watch games.

"I'm not optimistic," said Jack Myers, an analyst whose Myers Report newsletter is widely followed in the television industry. "There have always been settlements in the past when they come up to big sports events. But this time, they're really playing it for keeps."

The talks are being closely followed beyond these companies and their customers because of the idea that a retransmission agreement will set a precedent for future negotiations between different networks and cable or satellite companies. Another sticking point is the cable operator's access to CBS material for on-demand or mobile device viewing.

Already, the dispute is a milestone "that may be cited as a turning point in the industry," said Robin Flynn, analyst for the financial research firm SNL Kagan.

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