Time Warner Cable’s planned refund to Los Angeles customers for the first eight days of its 8/2 blackout of CBS, Showtime and other affiliated channels will be four dollars and change. The blackout includes L.A., New York and other major cities. The LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik was given the information by a Time Warner billing representative over the weekend and was not all that pleased: “She didn’t give up the information willingly, but only after I applied techniques I learned from a dentist’s handbook, specifically the chapter on pulling teeth. Before I persuaded her to make the calculation, she fed me the standard Time Warner line: because no one knows how long the blackout will last, the cable company doesn’t want to give subscribers an estimate of their rebate.”
The two companies are blaming each other for the breakdown in their negotiations over fees to be paid CBS for retransmission of its broadcasts, but really, who cares? The company I pay my monthly charges to is Time Warner Cable; it’s their responsibility to provide the services that I and 3 million other subscribers pay for. Let’s not forget that the cable company requires customers to pay for their monthly services in advance — if your bill is current, you’ve already forked over your money for the channels you’re not getting.
Time Warner is going to try to offer its customers chump change as compensation for its dereliction. The four bucks or so it says it will refund me covers only Showtime, a premium channel for which it collects a fee over and above its basic cable fee. For CBS, it’s planning to refund customers exactly nothing.”
Time Warner is claiming that the value of these channels comes to just 50 cents a day.
Added Hiltzik: “Allowing the firm to get away with cheating its customers in this case will just allow it to pull the same stunt the next time around, when some other content provider takes a firm stand in negotiations. That’s not good enough; the firm should be required to repay subscribers at a punitive rate, so it understands that it has breached its responsibility…. What can you do? Contact your local cable authority and insist on fair compensation for the blackout. You can also vote with your feet. Time Warner has a monopoly in its service region on cable service, but many communities (though not mine) also have fiber-optics service from Verizon or AT&T. Even where fiber is unavailable, there’s always satellite. Time Warner is happy to tell its customers how to find alternative sources of CBS programming; now you know where to find alternative cable and Internet providers.”
RBR-TVBR observation: As we’ve reported, there is already a subscriber suit against TWC in Milwaukee for dropping a Journal NBC affiliate there. Hiltzik’s article will probably get plenty of folks in SoCal up in arms as well, demanding refunds and perhaps calling attorneys. This may even allow subscribers to back out of their 2-year bundle deals with TWC.