August 02, 2013

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Going Dark is Hard Work: Behind the Scenes of a Retransmission Disagreement

You hear the term “channel blackout” thrown around a lot, now that retransmission consent fights are becoming more and more common. It seems like every couple weeks, some swath of America sees an ad from either their TV provider or a network warning that a station is at risk and may “go dark” soon.

The thing is, taking a channel down isn’t as simple as just pressing a button. There’s no “TV faucet” that someone just turns off until they’re told to turn it back on again.

When we are contractually forced to “go dark” with a particular series of channels, it’s the end result of thousands of man-hours of planning, by hundreds of TWC employees across the country. We really don’t like doing it. It upsets our customers (understandably) and distracts from all the other things our people have to do to run a TV and broadband network, and these are duties that don’t exactly go away just because of a contract dispute.

My co-blogger Jay Gormley pulled together this video to show exactly what it takes to make a channel “go dark.”:


  1. Carolyn Eagle's reply

    If you don’t offer CBS on my TWC account, I will be deciding on another company soon.

  2. cynthia's reply

    if i can not get 2,then 9 then 7 I will be going elsewhere

  3. Steve Robbins's reply

    I appreciate the difficulties you are having re-negotiating your agreements with CBS…….HOWEVER, from a customer’s point of view I have to look at this as YOUR problem and I CANNOT ALLOW IT TO BECOME MY PROBLEM! According, I have no choice but to IMMEDIATELY [early tomorrow morning] look to other cable providers for more complete servie. After all, other cable providers seemingly are still operating under [to them] workable agreements with CBS, so I will have to go elsewhere if complete service is not restored almost immediately. THE PROBLEM IS, MY FAMILY CANNOT DO WITHOUT THIS PROGRAMMING! SORRY!!
    PS—You would not want to face my wife in the morning and tell her she cannot watch her court shows, etc.!!!

  4. Claudia's reply

    So who exactly “forced” you to remove CBS. Both you and CBS are acted like spoiled children and we, the consumers, are being held hostage. We pay the highest rates for cable that I know of and I recently read that TWC has removed over 50 channels over the last two years. I don’t think that working in the consumers best interest. Get on the ball and get CBS and Showtime back on!

  5. Denyse's reply

    Will our bills be adjusted to reflect lost of service?

  6. Richard Stone's reply

    despite your claims, it turns out that I pay my daughter’s bill with another cable company and despite the fact that we have the same packages, I pay TWC for my service more than I pay for my daughter’s service… apparently her cable company gouges their customers less than TWC…

    so please do not respond with the usual corporate speak garbage about how TWC is fighting for its customers, blah, blah, blah – TWC only cares about its profits and not its customers…

    since I am not getting a large portion of what I have paid for, I will be reducing my cable payment accordingly… I will call your business office on Monday since all the CBS-related stations, SHO, TMC and the like are no longer available to me to discuss my bill (if I wanted Encore, I would have ordered it)….

    if TWC does not stop this nonsense (after all, this is NOT the first time TWC has pulled this act with various other stations) then Monday I will be contacting other providers to see how long it will take for them to hook me up for their equivalent of the triple play…

    Richard and Ellen Stone

  7. bill thompson's reply

    I’m out. This is the final straw on long list of dissatisfaction over TWC. Starting Monday I will start the process of changing to FIOS. In your ads and letters you talk about outrageous charges you need to look at my bill. No premium channels, no DVR, no extra boxes, extended basic only, and internet. $120.00 monthly charge and you have the nerve to talk about outrageous. My bill go up every year and no one is standing up for me.

  8. Suzanne Jamison's reply


  9. GERRY STARNES's reply


  10. Rich Schraier's reply

    TWC has one line of defense, CBS has it’s own line of defense in this retransmission dispute, but it’s the consumer who suffers. I don’t believe either company is telling the truth in this matter, and it’s the public who suffers. Both companies are playing politics, and who believes a politician. I hate the fact that I’m STUCK with Time-Warner and can’t do anything about it. Believe me, if I could cancel my long-time subscription I would do it in a heat beat. I suggest you resolve this issue FAST, and I do mean FAST. TWC has already lost a lot of customers and, if this drags on, they will lose many, many more. PUT THE CONSUMER FIRST FOR ONCE!!

    Rich, a very angry customer

  11. D.Washburn's reply

    Because you’ve monopolized the availability to receive television and other communication signals, you leave the consumers very little choice for option.One of the reasons we subscribe to TWC is to watch” Dexter” on “Showtime”. I am really tired of all the greed that goes on between networks and cable companies.And to think television used to be free?I am sure that my wife and I will be looking into other options to continue our TV viewing,internet and phone services.

  12. Asidle's reply

    Goodbye twc.

  13. Chuck Rowe's reply

    I’m quite sure that the propaganda techniques used against CBS in this conversation could easily be turned the other way with no loss of credibility. This needs to be attended to very quickly without all the finger-pointing and blaming by TWC. (it’s not all CBSs fault) If this isn’t solved in a few weeks, I will be dropping our cable service. KDKA Pittsburgh hasn’t been right for years, quality-wise, and TWC has shown no concern for that. Over the past year, TWC has allowed audio quality on most of our analog channels to erode without concern. (gaps, distortion, etc…) Fix it or we are done. Thanks.

  14. christi barnett's reply

    i don’t understand how you can turn your back on your bread and butter. you all need to suck up some of the loss don’t expect us to keep taking the hits. can’t wait to go with another company. keep rakin in the dough, tw

  15. Lori's reply

    CBS should be allowed to be viewed on the channel lineup while negotiations are continuing. Customers are not being consulted prior to the blackout to get consumer input during important negotiations just Time Warner decides what they think they can get away with for channels and cost assumed by the consumer.

  16. Suzanne Cook's reply

    We are an elderly couple and TV is our only source of news and entertainment. It is most distressing to find a major channel has gone black. It seems that we as customers are being used in this corporate game. I don’t appreciate it. If this continues we will be forced to rethink our cable/satellite provider. I hope you read this.
    Suzanne Cook

  17. Keith L's reply

    Wow I did not know that it was that hard to turn off a signal. I thought it was just someone sitting infront of a switch and then they flip it. Either way good job Time Warner. CBS does not deserve any more money than they are getting. If I really wanted CBS I would get a digital antenna but their programs stink. Have a great day Time Warner, Good job at going dark, Show them how silly they are being, they should pay you for airing their Shows.

  18. Nikki's reply

    Both TWC and CBS are acting like babies. Your consumers did not ask to be involved in this coroporate testosterone battle for profits. This is disgusting. I am paying 100% of my bill for less than 100% of service from TWC. They have been price gauging their customers for years and have the nerve to get up in arms about CBS doing it to them. I am paying I DESERVE MY SERVICE. TWC is offering no incentive to stay with their company at all, nor do they seem to care as all I have gotten from Customer Service is an obviously copy and pasted reply about how they are ‘standing by me’. There are plenty of alternatives (HULU NETFLIX, FIOS) all of which would be better than dealing with TWC. If this issue is not resolved, I will be dropping my service TONIGHT. I hope others will do the same. THEY DO NOT DESERVE OUR BUSINESS.

  19. Forficula Auricularia's reply

    Up until now I have been a reasonably satisfied Time Warner customer, but this is ridiculous. All indications are Time Warner and CBS are both immensely profitable corporations, and your constant whining about CBS has gone well past the point of absurdity. I suggest you stop this juvenile foolishness and restore all CBS stations immediately, or I (and no doubt many others) will be forced to find other TV providers. As it is, since CBS stations constitute maybe 33% of my total viewing, I feel you already owe me a substantial rebate for not delivering ALL the channels you agreed to when I signed up.

    If Time Warner is serious about saving money, might I suggest you start charging separately for ESPN and all those other high-priced sports channels — which I understand is where the bulk of my monthly fees currently go — and which, not being a sports fan myself in any way, shape, or form, I HAVE never (and WILL never, EVER) watch!

    Time-Warner’s bad behavior toward CBS is having the effect of making me reevaluate my entire, long-standing relatgionship with your company.

  20. John Doe's reply

    I love how during every dispute TWC claims they don’t want to pay because it will cause a price increase to subscribers. My bill goes up every year no matter what, its never went down. These two CEOs made over $80 million LAST YEAR ALONE! The little people get squeezed to pay for their ivory back scratchers.

  21. DJ's reply

    I do not appreciate TWC and CBS damaging us customers of both of you with your greed-filled squabbles over yet more money. My bill is high, service is not exactly impressive even normally, and I am quite aware I could receive sufficient service — or maybe better service — from other providers. If you bratty spoiled children cannot play nicely together, then we customers will take the ball and go elsewhere. Your misbehavior could get me off my lazy butt and make a change. I blame you both. I can do without the couple of CBS shows I like, but am disgusted that CBS is blocking online content and may not go back to watching CBS. .Goodbye to having top rated shows with the connected ad revenue. I’m unhappy about losing Dexter, which is the primary reason I pay for Showtime. But it’s Dexter’s last season, so Showtime will be cancelled anyway when Dexter is over. Starz is not even close to a sufficient replacement in the meantime. If I wanted Starz, I would have ordered it. I will be looking into other providers if there is no movement very soon. I also expect full compensation on my bill for not getting Showtime and one of the three primary channels. If my bill does not reflect a complete reimbursement, I will look into a class action on behalf of all TWC subscribers. If someone else doesn’t start it, I will.

  22. Mike's reply

    The CBS blackout has been a real eye opener. I connected a simple antenna to my Tivo so I could continue to see CBS and I was amazed at how much better the picture looked. Forget about money… CBS should pull its shows from Time Warner because they mess up the picture and sound so much. I’m looking for a new carrier.

  23. LeAnne's reply

    As a Time Warner Cable customer, I have to unlike the Dexter fan page on Facebook for fear of spoilers now that I have been cut off in the middle of the last season. I blame both Time Warner and CBS for their greed and lack of care for customer service. No one seems to be thinking about your customers and doing SOMETHING to provide options for them to still see their favorite shows. All you are doing is giving us plenty of time to find companies that will. So you keep fighting it out like greedy little toddlers and in the meantime I’ll look in to other cable options and not bother adding Showtime or any other CBS affiliate channels ever again. Seems it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you are only hurting your customers. Shame on you both.

  24. Suzanne Campbell's reply

    I am sick of the greed of corporations. I have little respect for TW or CBS! I pay too much as it is. As usual, the public loses and the corporations get greedier and greedier! You remind me of our politicans.Settle this or you will lose this subscriber!

  25. Barry Gold's reply

    TWC and CBS are like a pair of 16-year-olds who think they know how to drive, playing “Chicken”. Both of you should grow up and learn to “play well with others”.

    Time-Warner: The most popular network with the best shows _should_ be worth a little more than other stations. Grow up and learn to negotiate.

    CBS: Realize that, while you have the best programming around, there is a limited value to your programming on cable because most of us can go to the store, buy a $12 indoor antenna, and get your signal directly over the air. That’s what I’ve done. So grow up and learn to negotiate.

    I’m sending this same message to CBS.

  26. Robert's reply

    Well sorry guys I have to say it’s time to jump to FIOS here in Dallas, tonight’s preseason Dallas Cowboy’s game vs. the Oakland Raiders was being broadcast on CBS locally here in Dallas which is of course dark, but have no fear it was being broadcast also on the NFL Network which you carry and I have so no problem right. Well to my excitement the game started on the NFL Network but at the start of the of the 2nd Qtr. the NFL Network went dark and 20 minutes later a blue screen appeared stating that the game was blacked out in my area. Of course this was because the NFL network was broadcasting the local Oakland feed which was subject to NFL local blackout rules by the NFL as apparently the Raiders did not sell out at home.

    Well there you have it can’t watch the local broadcast of the game because CBS is dark due to greed and can’t watch it on the NFL Network due to the greed of them…. Greed Greed Greed…. All of you simply are deplorable TWC, CBS and NFL…. I have had TWC for close to five years now and I pay close to $300 bucks a month for TV/Phone and Internet and not the basics either I pay you for full service all the premiums HBO/MAX/SHO/TMC/ECORE/STARS on and on including the enhanced Internet, I have the top-o-line DVR’s boxes in five rooms of my house and I am what you call a Signature Home customer yet I can’t watch my Cowboy’s.

    I am a simple man, takes little to make me happy, but not being able to watch the Cowboys is a no no, so I am switching to FIOS….sure I know what you are going to say it will only be a matter of time before CBS demands more from them and when that happens and they get into a dispute I will cancel them and go to the next one.

    Basically your industries greed and I know its not just you the whole industry has created an environment where the customer means little basically the whole industry has a black eye. I am not mad at you I understand its business, but I am simply a die hard Cowboy’s fan and right now your service can’t deliver that product to me and more importantly you can’t tell me when you can, so in the meantime so long….farewell… arrivederci…


    A die Hard Cowboy Fan and soon to be former TWC Premium customer….

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