The current loud and testy negotiation between CBS and Time Warner Cable has seemingly lured in renegade alternatives for those viewers stuck in the usual morass of possible broadcast station blackout-land.
Why don’t you try our friend Aereo, the Internet-delivered service that delivers over-the-air stations and has stirred the anger of broadcast networks? That’s what Time Warner would recommend to its customers. They can get a free trial month of Aereo, which will perhaps be long enough to get over the hump of Time Warner’s negotiation with CBS.
We have not yet seen any evidence that Time Warner is using that tactic. So far, it’s just been a tangential suggestion from one Time Warner Cable corporate communications executive to The New York Times. The executive noted that consumers could also still get CBS programming with a regular antenna.
Time Warner and Aereo would make strange bedfellows, for sure. Cable companies have mulled the possibility of starting their own Aereo-like operations. Aereo has won a few court battles to package over-the-air stations to consumers in selective markets, New York among them, with no obligation to pay stations for that carriage.
Another media analyst suggested that Time Warner auction off the key low channel positions of CBS stations. That would seem to put added pressure on CBS.
But little in the business dynamic surrounding TV station carriage will actually change in the near term. Can cable companies live without broadcast network programming? No way. CBS reportedly wants $2 per subscriber per month from Time Warner, possibly a very large increase from what it has been paying, which could be in the 50-cent range. That said, ESPN still gets $5 per month per subscriber. CBS would attest that its viewership levels are way higher than the sports network’s, so it is still offering a considerable deal.
Viewers are not willing to take on another pay TV service like Aereo or to fumble around with an antenna while Time Warner Cable and CBS solve their differences. CBS’ big fall season will start in September, along with some highly viewed NFL programming. The pushing and shoving will only get a bit stronger if the impasse moves into deep August.
Both Time Warner and CBS are doing what they can to pitch their points of view. CBS is using its radio stations in big markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas to tell consumers to “blame Time Warner Cable” for a possible blackout. Should the negotiations last any length of time, this will only be the starting line of the drama. Look for the standard and new marketing spins to stir the attention of wanting and weary viewers.