Saturday, August 17, 2013

Attention, TWC and CBS: Settle Your Differences

I'm a football fan.

If you are also a football fan, you will understand what I am about to say.

Time Warner Cable has the concession in my apartment complex. As you may have heard, TWC is squabbling with CBS — and, until this matter is resolved, TWC is blacking out CBS affiliates and CBS–owned stations in certain cities.

One of which is Dallas.

Whether a city is blacked out depends on local terms of agreement, I suppose, because some cities, like Dallas, are blacked out, and others are not.

Now, I'll admit — without hesitation — that I don't know much about the business side of cable television.

But I do know that I have been waiting for football since February. And, because of this squabble, I haven't been able to watch the first two Cowboys preseason games.

Fox broadcasts NFC games during the regular season so I'll be able to watch the Cowboys play on Fox when the season begins.

Actually, missing the Cowboys games wouldn't bother me too much. See, I'm not a Cowboys fan. As I have mentioned here before, I am a Packers fan. Been one since I was a child. And the Packers, like the Cowboys, play in the NFC.

But I still like to watch the area teams, even if I don't tend to pull for them.

And if I don't have CBS when the season begins, I will be deprived of AFC games — and there are several teams in the AFC I would like to watch.

One more thing: Each teams plays a few interconference games which might be carried on CBS.

For me, this is a bad arrangement all the way around — and there are only a few weeks left before football season begins in earnest.

My advice to TWC and CBS is simple — Stop acting like petulant children, and settle your differences.

If this squabble drags into the official start of football season — and Bill Carter of the New York Times writes that this seems to be more and more likely — there are going to be some pretty angry subscribers, including yours truly.

Some of TWC's customers are pursuing a legal resolution. Frankly, I prefer to avoid being a part of that.

Perhaps most discouraging of all is BusinessWeek's Justin Bachman's conclusion that no one on either side has the influence necessary to resolve the dispute. Bachman writes that it may take the arrival of football season — and the blackouts of games involving NFL stars like Denver's Peyton Manning and New England's Tom Brady.

In the meantime, I suspect there are going to be a lot of increasingly frustrated football fans.

"The contract dispute is approaching the two–week mark with no hint of an imminent settlement," Carter writes. He goes on to quote a media analyst who believes "these guys are going to need the NFL to add a sense of urgency to this."

It isn't just the NFL. I'm a graduate of the University of Arkansas, and I've been pulling for the Razorbacks since I was a child. Back in those days, there were fewer college football broadcasts, and teams were restricted to one, maybe two appearances on TV during a regular season.

But now there are multiple channels carrying college football from morning until late at night on Saturdays in the fall.

Arkansas plays in the SEC, and CBS carries an SEC game of the week every Saturday. Now, Arkansas can appear — and has appeared — on other stations. But the big games — the ones with Texas A&M and Alabama and the LSU game on the Friday after Thanksgiving (which is always carried by CBS) might not be available to me.

What does the future hold? Well, Bachman reports that a spokesman for American Television Alliance, a pay–TV coalition, says, "If it goes to football season, I think Congress will definitely get involved."

Great. Congress can't agree on what to have for lunch.

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