My wife, who is being deprived of shows like Dexter and The Big Bang Theory reruns by the Time Warner/CBS fee dispute, and is terrified of missing out on Homeland, said of the two warring media conglomerates: “It’s like watching two muggers argue over who gets to steal your purse.”
I haven’t been paying it much attention. I’m assuming that TWC and CBS will get this sorted in time for football season. Well, let me rephrase, I’m assuming that if these two billion-dollar operations can’t get their act together in time for football season, we’re going to see the American version of “Arab Spring” and there will be blood in the streets. There are few things you don’t mess with in America: one is football, and I don’t think people care about number two as long as football is on.
Sorry, let me back up, CBS has been blacked out in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas for weeks now due to a fee dispute with Time Warner Cable. CBS also owns Showtime, so that’s been blacked out, and the Smithsonian channel — which nobody watches but me because it’s the last “learning” channel that doesn’t pander to redneck pawn, ice, gold, lumber, and fishing stars.
In response to this ridiculous situation, a group in Los Angeles has filed a class action lawsuit against TWC for blacking out CBS…
This seems like a good time to point out that Time Warner is still charging me $15 bucks a month for Showtime. This also seems like a good time to solicit advice from all the lawyers in America about what, precisely, I should say to Time Warner when I call them to explain why I will NOT be paying that charge.
The class action alleges that TWC induced people in L.A. to switch to Time Warner with the promise of CBS-owned programming. From Hollywood Reporter:
The plaintiffs claim in the suit that if they had known there might be a program blackout, they would not have become TWC subscribers. Pourtemour says he would not have purchased TWC’s Internet services either if the cable TV service was not offered “to his satisfaction.”
The suit alleges that Armstrong and Portemour complained to TWC that they were not able to watch Big Brother, the PGA Championship, Dexter and Ray Donovan because of the blackout. They cite ads taken out by TWC in Oct. 2012 promising them six free months of Showtime for signing up to TWC basic cable services.
“The courtesy replacement programming,” says the suit, “is not a reasonable substitute for programing blacked out, as it does not include a fungible offering of programs relative to CBS and Showtime.”
Whenever TWC gets into one of these disputes (and this happens way more than one would think), it feels like the cable company doesn’t understand that people pay to watch specific shows and events. They are a service provider, and right now they are not providing the service they promised. Having TWC right now is like hailing a cab and having the cab driver say, “Yeah, I can’t take you to Manhattan, but we can go anywhere in Queens you’d like.”
Still, I don’t think a class action is the right way to handle this situation. Time Warner has a virtual monopoly in certain markets, and it’s that monopoly that causes the problem. Trust me, if I could get reliable satellite access out of my first floor apartment, I’d have signed up for Direct TV years ago. We don’t need a civil action, we need a trust buster.
In any event, like I said, I expect this to be handled in time for football season. The freaking sequestration would be solved in time for football season if Congressional inaction caused Americans to miss games.
And whatever TWC has to pay CBS, they’ll just pass along those costs to the consumer. That’s what monopolies do. The customer is going to get jacked here — TWC and CBS are just arguing over how they’re going to split the loot.
Time Warner Cable Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over CBS Blackout [Hollywood Reporter]