McCain has been pushing for a la carte pricing by cable and other operators. There are other Congressional members intrigued by the concept, so the TWC proposal was probably politically astute. If CBS and TWC executives get called to Washington to answer questions about their standoff, TWC types can say: “We went so far as to offer CBS an a la carte option where we would charge customers nothing for offering its stations and they still said no.”
The proposal came down in a letter from Britt to CBS chief Leslie Moonves, where Britt said CBS can choose a price where “100%” would be “remitted” to the programmer.
“This way, rather than our debating the point, we would allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming,” Britt wrote.
Programmers -- at least cable networks -- have been opposed to a la carte pricing, suggesting the current bundle allows for lower pricing and more choice.
“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,” CBS said in a statement in response to the Britt letter. “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.”
Responding to the response, TWC said:
“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 … 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.”