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CBS Launching New Over-the-Air Network: “Decades” Will Feature Classic TV Series from 50s-80s

Phillip Dampier October 22, 2014 Consumer News 1 Comment

cbsMeTV is getting some quasi-competition starting in the second quarter of next year as CBS and Weigel Broadcasting launch “Decades,” a new over-the-air television network that CBS is calling “the ultimate TV time capsule.”

The new network will launch as a digital sub-channel on many CBS-owned local television stations:

  • KCBS Los Angeles
  • KOVR Sacramento
  • KPIX San Francisco
  • KCNC Denver
  • WFOR Miami
  • WTOG Tampa/St. Petersburg
  • WBBM Chicago
  • WJZ Baltimore
  • WBZ Boston
  • WWJ Detroit
  • WCCO Minneapolis
  • WCBS New York
  • KYW Philadelphia
  • KDKA Pittsburgh
  • KTVT Dallas

Weigel will handle affiliation agreements with non-CBS owned stations, most likely CBS affiliates owned by other companies. Weigel already programs MeTV, so the two networks will probably avoid direct duplication of each other, but the formats are expected to be similar.

The agreement gives Weigel expanded access to CBS’ library of produced and acquired classic television shows including I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Cheers, Happy Days and other shows generally out of syndication. Decades will also feature some original programming, such as Decades Retrospectical, that will include clips from CBS News and Entertainment Tonight.

Happy-Days“Decades takes the digital broadcast network platform to a new level,” said Norman H. Shapiro, president of Weigel. “Viewers will ‘Relive, Remember & Relate’ to the events that touched their lives and generations past. The events, themes and programming possibilities are endless.”

“Decades is the most ambitious and creative subchannel programming service that has ever been created,” said Peter Dunn, president, CBS Television Stations. “We are thrilled to partner with Weigel Broadcasting, the leaders in this space, to make smart use of our stations’ spectrums and our companies’ considerable programming assets. This service will be a tremendous new business for CBS and all of the other stations across the country that participate, regardless of their primary network affiliation.”

Decades is CBS’ first serious move into supporting digi-nets on its stations. CBS has been reluctant to allow digital subchannels, which can compromise the picture quality of its primary 1080i HD signal. But as digital compression technology has advanced, the network’s concerns have eased.

Decades will join Antenna TV, Cozi TV, Me-TV, and Retro TV, all of which focus heavily on classic TV shows, as well as This TV, FamilyNet, Bounce TV, and INSP, which also air some classic TV shows.

The growth in digi-nets may be waning, however. In late September, Weigel’s new Heroes & Icons channel devoted to crime and action shows like Cannon, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West, and Wagon Train only managed to pick up a small handful of affiliates, mostly Weigel-owned stations in the midwest. An ambitious project to launch four classic TV channels under the QUAD TV banner – one each for shows from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, was put on indefinite hold in August. The owners blamed uncertainty owing to the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, but the more likely reason is difficulty securing affiliate and carriage agreements at a time when rate sensitivity on cable and channel space on broadcast television are major concerns.

If Aereo Wins Lawsuit, Head of CBS Says He’ll Consider Taking the Network Off the Air

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2014 Consumer News, Online Video 6 Comments

cbsCBS head Les Moonves is ready to take the CBS television network off broadcast television and move it to a pay television platform where he can protect the network’s revenue should the Aereo video streaming service be deemed legal.

Aereo’s fate is likely to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in April, and if it should prevail providing local television signals over streaming video without paying the network for the programming, CBS is prepared to walk away from over 50 years of free over the air television.

“If Aereo should win, which we don’t think will happen, we can go ‘over the top’ with CBS,” Moonves said on Tuesday at an investor conference. “If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, then we will come up with some other way to get them our content and still get paid for it.”

“Over the top” refers to streaming programming over the Internet.

Cable, satellite and telco TV customers would be unaffected because CBS already receives compensation from those pay television venues. But those watching over the air would lose CBS unless they maintained an Internet-based subscription to the network.

Moonves said he will play hardball against any “systems out there that try to hurt us.”

Post TWC-CBS Dispute, Other Networks Preparing to Demand Their Own Increases

cbs twcJust weeks after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled a dispute over retransmission fees, other broadcasters and networks are preparing to make new demands for increased compensation from their cable, satellite, and telco IPTV partners at prices likely to provoke more blackouts.

Despite repeated protestations from Time Warner that over-the-air stations and networks deserve lower fees than cable-only networks, once the two parties went behind closed doors, the cable company quickly agreed to pay considerably more for CBS programming. Sources say CBS made a deal that will run up to five years and includes more than $1.50 in fees per subscriber, up from between 50-85 cents per month, depending on the city served, under the old contract. CBS had asked for about $2 a month. Effectively, the company will earn more than that because Time Warner also agreed to renew both the CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel, which cost extra.

“There is a new template here. Two dollars is the new holy grail,” Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan told Reuters.

Fox was the highest paid network before the CBS deal, collecting close to $1.25 per month per subscriber. ABC receives 50-65 cents and NBC less than that.

Harrigan predicts the other networks will race to raise their own prices, with Time Warner Cable (and others) likely forced to raise rates early next year to cover increased costs.

In the war for compensation, programmers hold most of the leverage.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WSJ Lessons Learned CBS 9-2-13.flv

The Wall Street Journal reports the dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS set new industry precedents on the value of broadcast stations and networks and how their programming is distributed on digital platforms. (2 minutes)

There have already been local station blackouts in 80 cities so far this year, with the likelihood last year’s record of 91 markets will be broken before Thanksgiving. In almost every instance where a popular network is involved, the pay television provider eventually capitulates because of subscriber complaints or cancellations.

Moonves

Moonves

Time Warner Cable admits its dispute with CBS cost the company business, both from prospective new customers going elsewhere and customer disconnects. Time Warner also spent money advertising its side of the dispute and paid to distribute free antennas to affected subscribers.

CBS’ Les Moonves had predicted Time Warner would eventually meet most of the network’s compensation demands before football season arrived. He was right.

“CBS is the winner. Content owners always win these negotiations, it’s just a matter of how much they won,” said Craig Moffett of Moffett Research. “They have all the leverage. Consumers don’t get mad and trade in their channel when these fights drag on. They go looking for a different satellite or telephone company.”

Almost 200,000 Time Warner Cable television customers left during the second quarter, and company officials admit that trend continued during the third quarter as the dispute dragged on. Time Warner Cable is likely to end the year with fewer than 11.5 million video subscribers, a loss of several hundred thousand this year.

Sources say one major sticking point that kept CBS off Time Warner Cable systems for nearly a month wasn’t about money. Instead, it was about digital distribution rights.

Time Warner Cable wanted CBS on its TV Everywhere app TWCTV and was also concerned about CBS selling content to online video streaming competitors that could accelerate cord-cutting.

Time Warner Cable did win permission to offer Showtime on its digital streaming platform and on apps for portable devices. But Time Warner will not get to carry local CBS-owned stations on streaming platforms, a significant blow. The cable company will also have to pay more for streamed and on-demand content.

In the end, CBS got almost everything it wanted and Time Warner Cable was handed back its largely unfulfilled wish list and a bigger, retroactive bill subscribers will eventually have to pay.

“We wanted to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience to our customers,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in defense of the agreement. “While we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started.”

Moonves gloated to various trade publications and investors that CBS went unscathed after the month-long dispute.

“Our national ad dollars did not go down,” Moonves told attendees at the recent Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Media Communications & Entertainment Conference. “There were no such things as make-goods and there was no harm done financially to CBS Corporation.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Moonves CBS Got Fair Value for Our Content 9-7-13.flv

CBS’ Les Moonves has won his dispute with Time Warner Cable, says Les Moonves in this interview with Bloomberg TV. (10 minutes)

Comcast owns both NBC and the cable companies that carry its local affiliates.

Comcast owns both NBC and the cable companies that carry its local affiliates.

Cable rate increases are not likely to stop with the agreement with CBS. Analysts predict NBC, ABC, and FOX will be seeking similar rates when their contracts come up for renewal. Altogether, every cable, telco IPTV, and satellite subscriber could see rates increase up to $6 a month for the four major American networks.

“Any time one of these larger networks sets the new standard in terms of pricing for their programming, the rest follow,” Justin Nielson, an analyst for SNL Kagan, told Hollywood Reporter. “In most cases it’s been CBS and FOX trailblazing what the rates should be and then ABC and NBC following.”

Comcast-NBC’s Steve Burke is already there. Burke told investors affiliates should be paying 20 to 25 percent more for cable networks such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, CNBC and MSNBC .

“We’re not paid as much as we should be given our rating and positioning by cable and satellite companies,” Burke said. “I see no reason why we won’t sort of draft behind the other broadcast networks and get paid in a similar way.”

Burke predicts NBC will earn between $500 million to $1 billion annually from increased retransmission consent fees comparable to what CBS and FOX receive.

Next week, DISH Networks faces the expiration of their contract with ABC/Disney-owned channels, including the Cadillac-priced ESPN. The outcome of renewal negotiations may serve as an indicator for where rates are headed in the world of retransmission economics.

A growing number of elected officials in Washington are paying attention as they and their constituents live through one programmer blackout after another. At least four pieces of legislation have been introduced to deal with the problem in very different ways, according to Bloomberg News:

The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act

This law, known as STELA, dates to 2004 and gives satellite companies a license to provide local TV stations, just as cable operators do. The current law is set to expire at the end of 2014, with most observers calling its reauthorization a near certainty. The debate is mainly over how “clean” the STELA reauthorization bill will be as it emerges from the legislative process, with the pay TV companies urging lawmakers to address the issue of retransmission disputes. Broadcasters are working for a “clean” bill, written narrowly to address the satellite companies’ immediate needs. “There’s nothing clean about the current retransmission system,” says Brian Frederick, a spokesman for the American Television Alliance, a coalition of pay-TV companies. Two House committees held hearings on the law this week. A final bill and vote are expected next year.

Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment)

Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents much of Silicon Valley, introduced this bill Sept. 9 aimed at ending blackouts. “Recurring TV blackouts, including the 91 U.S. markets impacted in 2012, have made it abundantly clear that the FCC needs explicit statutory authority to intervene when retransmission disputes break down,” Eshoo said in a press release. (The FCC gets involved now only if one party accuses the other of negotiating in bad faith.) The bill would unbundle broadcast stations from a cable package and prohibit a broadcaster from requiring a pay TV operator to take affiliated cable channels to obtain more popular channels. That issue is at the heart of why Cablevision sued Viacom in February, following a contentious negotiation.

Eshoo’s bill would also require the FCC to study programming costs for sports networks in the top 20 regional sports markets. The rising fees for sports programming—led by ESPN—is considered one of the major influences behind rising cable bills and the power that content creators such as Disney hold in negotiations. Cable companies have praised Eshoo’s bill, while broadcasters are not fans. Don’t expect to see it get far in a Republican-led House.

Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013

This bill, introduced in May by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), would end the long era of the cable television bundle, that phenomenon by which you pay for hundreds of channels and find yourself watching only about two dozen, or fewer. This summer, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal signed on as a Democratic co-sponsor, but there’s been no similar sponsors on the House side. Blumenthal explained his support of the bill in an August interview with the Hollywood Reporter:

“What I hear from cable consumers overwhelmingly is, ‘give us freedom of choice. Don’t make us pay for something we don’t want and won’t watch. Why am I paying for—you name a channel you don’t like or five or ten or them—just so I can watch the one I do want.’ That’s overwhelmingly the sentiment of people who buy this product. So this bill just gives voice and force to that sentiment.”

Next Generation Television Marketplace Act

This bill from Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, and former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, also a Republican, dates to December 2011 and would deregulate the entire television market, top to bottom. It would repeal compulsory copyright licenses, the legal mechanism by which content owners are required to let pay TV companies carry their programs, if they are paid a fee for the content. The bill, which would also dismantle the system of retransmission fees, is essentially an exercise in carrying free-market ideology to its logical conclusion. The problem? It would require a countless number of individual deal negotiations—any radio or television station that wanted to carry programming (i.e., all of them)—would need to strike deals with every programmer, yielding an inefficient system that would likely prove unworkable. Lawyers would love the bill, but don’t expect it ever to pass Congress.

In fact, none of these bills are expected to pass through both the gridlocked House and Senate this year.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Les Moonves Says It Would Be Dumb For Lawmakers To Change Retransmission Rules 9-4-13.flv

CNBC also talked with CBS’ Les Moonves about CBS’ views towards compensation and distributing content online. (13 minutes)

Time Warner Cable: Our Condolences to Verizon if They Signed the CBS Deal We Rejected

Phillip Dampier August 28, 2013 Consumer News, Online Video, Time Warner Cable, Video 5 Comments
witmer

Witmer

If what Time Warner Cable claims is true, the stalemate that has kept CBS content away from subscribers for four weeks may be less about the money and more about CBS’ desire to control your viewing experience.

Melinda Witmer, TWC’s chief video and content officer, reports CBS is demanding daunting new restrictions in their proposed renewal contract, including requiring customers to “register their television sets” with CBS before being able to turn them on.

Witmer said CBS’ demands also include new powers over DVR capabilities, which means CBS could possibly prevent customers from fast-forwarding through commercials or even block the recording and/or storage of certain programs without network permission.

“CBS announced that they signed a deal with Verizon (FiOS TV) and has suggested that they offered us the same deal Verizon just signed,” Witmer said. “All I can say is our condolences to Verizon if they signed the deal CBS put in front of us. I hope for Verizon’s sake that they didn’t sign that, but if they did I’m glad for us because we’ll compete that much better against them when we finish our deal.”

Cable operators are seeking expanded rights from programmers as customer viewing habits evolve. Among the most important are those that would allow online and on-demand streaming of programming to authenticated cable subscribers.

Time Warner Cable has invested considerable resources in its online viewing platforms for PC’s, smartphones, and tablets, providing most of the TWC lineup on those portable devices. But the service has been largely limited in-home viewing because the cable company is having trouble securing permission to stream most of that content for those on the go.

Time Warner Attempts to Placate Impacted Customers

twcAlthough Time Warner Cable is crediting customers for the loss of Showtime/The Movie Channel, blocked by the cable operator while the impasse continues, Time Warner is not giving any automatic refunds for the loss of CBS basic or broadcast programming and networks taken off the cable dial. CBS-owned Smithsonian TV is the most affected basic cable channel nationwide. Some customers who pay extra for Smithsonian as part of an added-cost HD Tier often known as “TWCHD Pass” have gotten service credits upon request.

Time Warner Cable is giving out free over-the-air antennas to customers in cities where local CBS-owned stations have been taken off the cable lineup.

Time Warner Cable has a limited quantity of free basic indoor antennas available for customers at TWC retail locations in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles/Desert Cities, New York City, Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisc. In addition, TWC has partnered with Best Buy in those cities to provide $20 toward the purchase of any in-stock broadcast antenna at select Best Buy store locations. The cable company has published a list of retail locations where antennas are available as long as supplies last. Limit one per customer and installation is your responsibility.

Radio Shack has also taken advantage of the situation by slashing prices on an AntennaCraft Amplified Omnidirectional HDTV Antenna, now available online for $37.49 – a 25 percent discount. Best Buy is supporting Time Warner Cable’s position in the CBS dispute. Radio Shack is not, telling customers its antennas make it easy to “cut the cable.”

Time Warner is appeasing tennis fans with enhanced coverage of the 2013 US Open Tennis Championship Series with a free preview of The Tennis Channel running Aug. 26 through Sept. 9.

The blackout is also keeping Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Earthlink (supplied by either cable operator) broadband customers from watching CBS content online.

If you now receive this channel Here’s how your Time Warner Cable video service is impacted
CBS from NYC, LA, Dallas-Ft Worth, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh -The CBS channel has been removed from your lineup
-CBS Primetime on Demand is now unavailable
-StartOver and LookBack services on all CBS-owned stations are unavailable
CBS from any city other than the ones listed above -CBS Primetime on Demand is now unavailable
-StartOver and LookBack services on local CBS affiliate stations are unavailable
Flix Flix is now unavailable
The Movie Channel The Movie Channel and The Movie Channel on Demand are now unavailable; TWC is providing replacement programming from Encore on a temporary preview basis–look in your guide for channel numbers.
Showtime Showtime, all its associated multiplex channels, and Showtime on Demand are now unavailable; TWC is providing replacement programming from Starz on a temporary preview basis–look in your guide for channel numbers.
Smithsonian Channel Smithsonian and Smithsonian on Demand are now unavailable

The Federal Communications Commission said it is trying to resolve the fee dispute from Washington.

“The commission is engaged at the highest levels with the respective parties and working to bring the impasse to an end,” Justin Cole, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “We urge all parties to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so consumers can access the programming they rely on and are paying for.”

But acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn also admitted the FCC has few powers to intervene and compel an agreement.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/TWC Melinda Witmer on CBS Blackout 8-24-13.flv

Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer, head of the team negotiating with CBS, suggests the network is demanding unprecedented control over your viewing experience — a deal breaker for the cable operator.  (6 minutes)

Time Warner Surrenders to CBS’ Money Demands; Digital Rights Still in Contention

surrenderIf Time Warner Cable is concerned about the rising cost of cable television, it sure didn’t show it after sources revealed the cable company quickly accepted CBS’ demands for more compensation but is refusing to budge until it wins rights to show CBS programming on mobile platforms.

Sources tell the Daily News Time Warner quickly agreed to a major increase from 50 cents a month per subscriber to $2 a month for CBS content, but is keeping CBS-owned stations and cable networks off the dial until the network agrees to let the cable company distribute on-demand and live programming on cell phones, tablets, and personal computers.

Earlier this week, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt made an offer CBS couldn’t wait to refuse: the cable company would put CBS programming back on the lineup if it could be sold to customers a-la-carte instead of bundling it with other channels.

That would “allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming,” Britt said in a letter to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves that was promptly posted online.

CBS called the idea a sham, noting a-la-carte runs contrary to the economic model the cable industry itself regularly and loudly defends. Try telling ESPN, which costs every cable subscriber more than $5 a month, it will now be offered only to customers that want to pay for it.

Phillip "Capitulation Corner" Dampier

Phillip “Capitulation Corner” Dampier

In fact, for most cable operators, the concept of selling customers only the channels they want is the nightmare scenario. Average revenue per subscriber would tumble as consumers rid themselves of networks with three digit channel numbers they didn’t even know they had. Goodbye ‘Yarn Creations’ on Generic Home Shopping Channel 694, Bosnian music videos, reruns of Simon and Simon, mysterious networks showing episodes of Law & Order that USA Network already burned into your permanent memory, and that “fine arts” network that shows endless hours of Antiques Roadshow dating back to 1998.

Digital rights is an important issue for both cable companies and programmers. Although both sides deny “cord cutting” is real, the intensity of the fight allowing online viewing says otherwise. If CBS gives away rights to Time Warner Cable to show live and on-demand programming to subscribers, CBS can’t make as much money offering shows on its own website (with its own ads), much less sell programming to customers. Time Warner fears if CBS only offers online programming through its own website, customers might decide they don’t need the cable company to watch those shows any longer.

“At the moment the cable operators have the leverage because the more that CBS is off the cable, the more that they realize the viewers don’t need it,” said media expert Michael Wolf, former Yahoo! board member and president of Viacom-owned MTV Networks.

For now, many viewers are turning to pirate video sites to catch the CBS shows they are missing. TorrentFreak reports huge spikes in illicit download traffic of CBS content over the weekend. Under the Dome was the source of much of the spike, although customers are also downloading pirated copies of Showtime programming. The evidence is clear: take away popular programming and customers will simply download it illegally from third-party websites.

As summer wanes and the fall football season approaches, just about everyone expects the war will quickly end, because football fans are more than willing to drop a provider if they can’t spend several hours in front of the television Sunday afternoon. Considering Time Warner has reportedly already caved in on CBS’ money demands, it is likely CBS will be able to eventually extract even more money from the cable company to secure digital distribution rights. Subscribers will pick up the tab for both during the next round of rate increases beginning this fall in the south and by January in the northeast.

Time Warner Cable’s latest regulatory notice admits current deals with more than 50 networks are due to expire soon, and the company may cease the carriage of one or more of the networks. They include: Lifetime, E!, Style, Turner Classic Movies, and the NHL Network. So just like Law & Order reruns, we will see this episode again in the near future.

The PGA is offering a way for golf fans to watch the PGA Championship online, bypassing the CBS-TWC dispute.

The PGA is offering a way for golf fans to watch some of the PGA Championship online, bypassing the CBS-TWC dispute.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC PGA Time Warner 8-8-13.mp4

Perhaps the biggest loss viewers without CBS will experience this weekend is the PGA Championship. CNBC talks with tournament officials in Rochester, N.Y., about the possibility of viewing alternatives. But golf fans can watch parts of the tournament for free from the PGA’s website. (3 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg The Future of Cable Post CBS-TWC Battle 8-6-13.flv

Bloomberg News reports that while many cable viewers could care less about the loss of CBS and Showtime, broadband customers may care very much when cable operators start charging extra for Netflix or add punitive usage caps to make sure customers don’t cut cable TV’s cord. (3 minutes)

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