In Which We Explain The Whole Time Warner/CBS Squabble

You might have heard that CBS was about to be dropped from Time Warner Cable, only to discover that somehow, it was still on the air. What’s going on, and why might you be denied the joy of middling cop shows and sitcoms?

Let me guess: It’s got something to do with money?

Why, yes, indeed it does. Specifically, Time Warner and CBS are squabbling over carriage rates, which Time Warner says CBS is charging a 600% markup for in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

Was Time Warner really going to yank a major network off its system in three major media markets?

Yep, in fact it was doing just that when it stopped, apparently at the request of CBS. The two parties are trying to hammer out a negotiation by Friday that allows them to move forward and continue charging you carriage rates.

OK, what are carriage rates?

It’s what the cable companies pay the network for the right to carry their content over their cables. Put another way, it is what you pay for stuff you can get for free, because you own cable and your cable company sees you as a money lemon to be squeezed for all its sweet, delicious juice.

I feel like this isn’t exactly new.

You’d be right: This has been going on since the end of June. CBS and Time Warner Cable don’t really see eye to eye as businesses, and CBS likely views this as a way to get concessions both for future negotiations and with other cable systems.

Will they reach a deal?

CBS has football, and the NFL has little interest in losing TV revenue from three major markets; they’ll come to an accord.

Will I be screwed by this agreement?

Oh, absolutely, are you kidding? You think the cable systems will pay these fees? If you live in New York, LA, or Dallas, essentially this squabble is just a very public announcement that your bill is going to spike in the next few months.

At least this is going to be an anomaly, right?

Ha, no. As network television sees more and more financial pressure, expect cable systems and broadcast networks to keep repeating this spectacle in various markets. This is just the first of what will be lengthy and ongoing arguments.

Is there anything I can do?

In this case? I’d recommend cutting the cord and buying an antenna. Or you could look into Aereo, provided it isn’t sued out of existence. Either way, don’t expect cable prices to come down; cable companies will resist that with their dying breath, even if that means making you pay even more for something you can get for free.