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Aug 23

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Sympathy for the Devil:Choosing Sides in the Time Warner/CBS Debacle

As a result of our recent move, our family finds itself in the middle of the bitter contract dispute between CBS and Time-Warner Cable. TWC’s digital cable package comes free with our cable unit, so we have no choice but to use them for our TV and Internet services. Since the television service is free (we pay for our internet service), many would say I have no room to complain, but as a former paying TWC customer, this seems to be about par for the course for the nation’s second largest cable provider.

When we last subscribed to TWC, approximately seven years ago, they were locked in a similar dispute with the NFL Network. Every time I asked them about the blackout of the channel, they told me that it would result in higher cable bills for all their customers.

When we moved to a location that allowed us to install DirectTV, not only did we get the NFL Network, but we also paid less and received a much higher quality picture, with a more technologically advanced DVR system.

We then moved to a duplex that offered AT&T UVerse, which surpasses even the quality of Direct for an even lower amount.

The entire time we were DirectTV and UVerse customers, we never lost a single channel over a petty contact dispute, but the second we become TWC customers again, it was deja vu.

So who is at fault here and does losing CBS really matter?

Of all the networks to lose, CBS is definitely the easiest. With the exception of this summer’s breakout hit, Under the Dome, there is not a single CBS show my wife and I watch. I’m a Cowboys fan, so at worst, I am forced to watch two NFL games on CBS each season. I am a fan of SEC football, but that won’t become an issue until September 14, so up until this point, losing CBS has been nothing more than a minor nuisance, since I can’t DVR the Price is Right and have had to watch a Spanish broadcast of a Cowboys preseason game.

Over the past few weeks, profile pieces on TWC’s Melinda Witmer and CBS’s CEO, Les Moonves, have emerged, revealing two intransigent personalities at the heart of the debate. Neither one seems all that pleasant, or willing to compromise, and both seem more concerned with their companies bottom line, than the products they offer to their customers, but as the Wall Street Journal profile of Witmer points out, “since 2010, Time Warner Cable has been in more blackout disputes with broadcasters than any other cable operator.”

TWC has also done very little to reach out to its customers, although we did receive this email today.

On the other hand, while certainly not without his own faults, Moonves has been able to recently secure deals with other carriers that TWC has reportedly rejected. I hate to say it, but I think I have to side with CBS on this one.

Hopefully, these two divas can kiss and make up before September 14. If not, they may both find themselves hearing from one of the loudest groups in the nation, the 12th Man.

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