Press-Republican

Entertainment

August 31, 2013

CBS blackout dispute threatens football fans

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The NFL's opening kickoff may not be as potent a pressure point as many people have assumed because of the way the schedule starts. CBS is not broadcasting any games involving New York or Dallas teams on the opening weekend; Los Angeles has no "home team" in the NFL. Dallas is playing the New York Giants on Sept. 8, but that's the Sunday night game on NBC.

CBS' first significant game for one of the local markets is on Sept. 15, when the Giants will face the Denver Broncos in a matchup featuring quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning. The New York Jets first appear on the CBS schedule on Sept. 22, and the Cowboys not until Oct. 6.

"We are working hard to reach an agreement as soon as possible," said Maureen Huff, spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable. "But the negotiations or pace of negotiations are not tied to any game or event coming up."

On Friday, Time Warner began running a television ad telling customers that switching providers isn't a good idea. The ad says there have been some 200 blackouts due to business disputes in recent years, and that "even if you switch, you're still at risk for network blackouts."

Time Warner isn't saying how many customers it has lost because of the dispute, but Huff said the "vast majority" of customers who called inquiring about the situation have not switched.

After the blackout, CBS retaliated by blocking access to CBS programming online to people who get their Internet service from Time Warner, even people who are not cable customers. Huff estimated that affects more than 12 million people.

Time Warner has also blacked out the Showtime cable network for customers in the three cities (Showtime is a business partner of CBS). Showtime's most high profile show, "Homeland," begins a new season on Sept. 29.

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