Analyst: Altice-Meredith Dispute Could Help CBS

Altice USA’s ongoing dispute with Connecticut CBS affiliate WFSB could end up benefiting the broadcast networks the most, according to a top media analyst, as the cabler offers up the network’s CBS All Access OTT service during the service disruption.

WFSB is owned by Meredith Corp. and broadcasts to a small number of Altice USA Optimum TV customers in Litchfield and New Haven counties. The channel went dark on Jan. 13 after the parties could not reach a retransmission-consent agreement.

While pricing appears to be the major roadblock in negotiations, Altice USA has been offering CBS All Access to its customers in the affected counties, the over-the-top service directly from the broadcaster. The free CBS All Access trial allows those customers to watch all the top network shows from the programmer, including NFL games, online.

In a research note Monday, Telsey Advisory Group media analyst Tom Eagan wrote that the dispute could end up helping CBS the most.

“Essentially, the Meredith black-out could translate to healthy CBS All Access sub gains which with $5.99 in affiliate fees and $3.50 in advertising revenue (per sub per month) would offset any loss in reverse retrans payment to CBS Corp.,” Eagan wrote.

This isn’t the first time that CBS All Access has been used as a chit in retrans negotiations. The network itself has promoted the OTT service as an alternative when local channels go dark. In addition to its broadcast shows – and the recent addition of NFL Games – CBS All Access also offers on-demand access to the network’s vast programming library.

Optimum TV’s predecessor company Cablevision Systems was an early adopter of CBS All Access – it was the first pay TV provider to distribute the OTT service to it broadband customers.

In 2015, San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB offered viewers a two-month free trial of CBS All Access while it was locked in a dispute with DirecTV.  KFMB had an agreement with CBS All Access, so its local news and programming was available over the service. The station resolved its dispute with DirecTV after being dark for about three weeks.