Aug 29 CBS Corp aired ads in three major
U.S. markets this week urging fans to switch television
providers before the start of the professional and college
football seasons to pressure Time Warner Cable Inc to
end a month-long blackout over fee increases.
The ads, which feature a much-anticipated matchup between
star sibling NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, are
designed to highlight what Time Warner subscribers would miss
should the blackout in those major markets extends into the
rabidly followed football season.
The two sides have been at odds since Aug. 2, when CBS and
its sister Showtime premium channel were blacked out on Time
Warner systems in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and some smaller
Analysts predict the blackout - affecting more than 3
million homes - will end around the NFL regular-season kickoff
on Sept. 8, as both sides fear a backlash from irate football
fans blocked from watching the hugely popular sport.
CBS's ad, which began airing this week in the three largest
affected markets, encouraged viewers to "tell your friends with
Time Warner Cable to switch providers now, so they'll be ready
for the games on CBS."
"They both realize that this was the big skirmish ahead of
them, when TV viewers started paying attention after the
doldrums of the summer," said sports TV consultant Ed Desser, a
former top National Basketball Association executive.
The CBS ad included shots of the Manning brothers, who will
face each other in a Sept. 15 game between the Denver Broncos
and New York Giants.
"It's Peyton versus Eli in what could be their last match up
ever," the ad proclaims.
It also showed clips of the Alabama college football squad,
which finished last year ranked No. 1 in the United States, and
is due to play Texas A&M, which upset Alabama in November. CBS
will broadcast the game on Sept. 14.
"At the end of the day, CBS programming is just too valuable
and CBS's sports lineup is too compelling for Time Warner to
remain dark once football season starts," said cable analyst
Craig Moffett of Moffett Research.
"Time Warner Cable will be taking a tremendous risk to let
it get that close to the Manning Bowl," he added. "What has
probably been a minimal trickle of consumer defections would
turn into a torrent if it started to look like it might not be
CBS is seeking an increase in the "retransmission fee" that
Time Warner Cable pays to carry its signal, and additional fees
for the cable operator to use its programs on its digital
outlets. CBS gets added fees from other operators for the
A spokesman for CBS had no comment. A Time Warner Cable
spokeswoman said: "We hope to resolve this blackout as soon as
possible, and to reach a deal that represents a good value for
our customers. Negotiations are ongoing and active. They are not
really tied to any particular game or program."