Moonves: Time Warner Cable Deal Set Mark

CBS CEO Les Moonves said the recent carriage battle with Time Warner Cable set a mark for future retransmission consent deals, but added that the month-long skirmish – where the network was dark  to about 3 million TWC customers – was not particularly enjoyable for the network.

CBS went dark to TWC subscribers on Aug. 2 and stayed off the cable operator’s systems in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas until Sept. 2. While terms of the agreement were not disclosed it has been widely believed that CBS came up with the sweeter end of the deal. In the aftermath, TWC reported a loss of about 306,000 residential video subscribers in the third quarter, largely attributed to the CBS dispute.

“Time Warner Cable did sort of set a mark,” Moonves said at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference  in New York on Tuesday, adding that CBS inked a similar retrans pact with Verizon Communications during the spat. “As the deals with affiliates come up, there’s a new marketplace. …Each deal is better than the one before.”

But Moonves said that having to go dark to the Time Warner Cable subscribers was not enjoyable. It was the first time the network had to pull a signal as a result of a retrans dispute.

“August wasn’t a lot of fun,” Moonves said. “It wasn’t fun being dark. It wasn’t fielding calls from mayors and the FCC.”

But the CEO said the dispute helped prove that the current retrans system works.

“This is free enterprise,” Moonves said. The fact that we did a Verizon deal in 72 hours without any muss or fuss – I like that model better.”