August 23, 2013

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TWC’s Witmer on CBS email: “I hope for Verizon’s sake they didn’t sign that …”


CBS head honcho Les Moonves emailed his troops yesterday, ostensibly to congratulate them on signing a distribution deal with Verizon. The email, leaked widely to the media (of course), was essentially a tirade against Time Warner Cable. Charging that we are “demanding different terms than any other company in the business,” Moonves further claimed that TWC was offered “almost exactly the same deal for CBS carriage to which Verizon has agreed.”

We talked with Melinda Witmer, TWC’s EVP and Chief Video and Content Officer, who oversees the team of negotiators handling the CBS discussions, and here’s what she said about the Mooves missive: “All I can say is, our condolences to Verizon if they signed the deal that CBS put in front of us.”

In an interview posted below, Witmer noted that the deal CBS proposed would roll back customer features like DVR capability, along with other demands that she said would “truly harm our customer experience. I hope for Verizon’s sake they didn’t sign that, but if they did then I’m glad for us because we’ll compete that much better against them when we sign our deal.” You can watch the full interview here:

Witmer’s a tough negotiator, but as is clear in the interview, she’s motivated by getting the best deal for Time Warner Cable’s customers – a deal with reasonable economics, but also the rights to deliver the technology and viewing experience customers want.

On the Moonves slam that TWC lacks a sense of urgency to get a deal done, Witmer said the CBS honcho would change his opinion if he could see the thousands of employees across the company dealing with realities of the blackout and trying to take care of customers. “I just don’t think that he has a very realistic view of our business and certainly not a realistic view of the urgency and dedication with which [TWC] employees are trying to handle this matter.”


  1. Kevin Fitzgerald's reply

    Dear Self-Proclaimed TWC Honchos,
    You know, you’re better off if you don’t say anything rather than issue these lame email defenses of your position in the negotiations with your various programming providers and your AMAZING lack of consideration for your customer base. I’m in the process of leaving your universe for ever. And, my entire community has voted to turn our guaranteed customer base of 150 some homes over to Verizon Fios and abandon the TWC experience of intermittent outages (on both the cable tv and internet sides), inept management (yes, Honchos included) and callous disregard for the interests and concerns of the customers who are the MAIN CREATORS OF REVENUE for your poorly run business. I’ll be sure to write again to say GOODBYE officially!


    Kevin Fitzgerald

  2. Kevin Fitzgerald's reply

    Dear TWC Self-Proclaimed Honchos,

    Why is it that I as a customer can no longer find anywhere on your website to view the stream of mass customer comments/emails directed to your inept organization? have you decided that it’s not healthy to let your customers witness the wave of anti-TWC sentiment that’s sweeping the digital media marketplace?

    Feeling mistreated, taken for an idiot and angry about it,
    Kevin Fitzgerald

  3. Robert Wojciechowski's reply

    Time Warner Cable and CBS should both be ashamed of themselves, having put their customers, we the viewing public, in the middle of their dispute. It is not our problem or fault that the two companies cannot play well together in the corporate sand box. Programming should not have been halted while the two companies deal thier issues.

    If this keeps up, I plan never to watch any CBS programming ever again. It is likely that I will stop using Time Warner Cable as well, going without any TV services whatsoever (no cable, no satellite dish, anything). I can get my news, weather and sports online. Television is no longer a requirement to access information.

    I hope that Time Warner Cable and CBS are prepared to sleep in the bed they are making.

  4. wilbur skidmore's reply

    i want our channels back please we are paying good money and we want football and the news

  5. Richard's reply

    As a TWC customer (or customer of any carrier), I pay twice to view the content: First, I pay the cable bill, and secondly I pay with my eyeballs to watch all the advertising. The content providers (e.g., CBS) likelwise get paid twice: once from the cable provider, and second by the advertisers.



  6. Kathy's reply

    I have had enough of this blackout! Sign whatever contract is out there and get us our programs back! We are missing the final season of Dexter and Ray Donovan, not to mention our inability to access CBS on Demand! Hubby says 1 more week, then call Direct TV!! We pay more for TWC than satellite charges—that certainly should off set any increases from CBS!

  7. Roy Pettyjohn's reply

    CBS is a crap network. The only reason I even flip to them is to watch football. If time warner raises my bill to keep CBS or ANY of its subsidiaries, they will need to come get my box and modem. And my families’ boxes and modems. Neighbors, too. Everyone I know pretty much has the same view as I do. Drop CBS, don’t bring it back, and let other networks get full advertising dollars. It will take care of the greed these execs are showing real fast.

  8. Fed-up Customer's reply

    Why should we believe one word of your propaganda? I live more than 100 miles from mid-town Manhattan yet you consider me to be in the NYC Metro area – you flunk geography people. Why should I keep paying for less and less channels? I am deducting $10 from my monthly bill every month until you put ANY CBS station (affiliates are acceptable to WCBS NYC) And if it is not settled soon I will cancel all contracts with TWC for TV and Internet.

  9. Dan Ellis's reply

    I totally back everything what TWC is doing. But also, I’m very disappointed by the way CBS has crippled KCAL 9.

  10. Jason Schwartz's reply

    To Fed Up: If you live more than 100 miles away, I’m sure your local CBS is NOT WCBS/NY. I think you might be confused as to what’s being blacked out and why. What city do you live in? Philadelphia area? Albany/Capital Region? (I don’t work for TWC… I’m as upset as everyone else about this issue. I also can get an antenna and watch since I live in NYC.) Also, why the pseudonym? You come across more as the one promoting propaganda when you hide.

    To TWC and CBS/Les Moonves: I don’t know what contract Verizon signed (and likely we will never know since these contracts are not public). I say BOTH sides lay their cards in the table and make this a public debate since CBS and local affiliates are PUBLIC airwaves. Any purely cable station needs to be considered a separate contract that can’t be bundled with a broadcast station.

    And WCBS… since the NY Jets just killed their season, I don’t see too many fans racing to other carriers so they can watch these games. If they really want the games, it’s off to the sports bar.

  11. Angela Deaner's reply

    Andrew Russell or Melinda Witmer-

    If you are reading any of the posts on Facebook, you will see how irate many of your customers have become. In addition to the CBS/Showtime issue, it seems there is a dire need of training and customer relations skills needed by your customer service. I sympathize with those answering the phones that have been kept in the dark about the blackout, as have your customers, but that is really no excuse for rudeness or misinformation.

    Given the lack of information you have given your customers during the blackout (i.e. where you are in negotiations), this is what I would like to know:

    1. It has been widely reported in the media that CBS was asking for an increase in per subscriber charges from approx. $0.75 to $2.00, which is approx. 170% increase vs. the 600% increase TWC has been widely stating. How is 600% arrived at?

    2. The incoming CEO stated back back on August 5th in a MSNBC interview, that you had agreed to the economic terms CBS wanted (increase to $2.00 /subscriber) but wanted the rest of the deal to remain the same as the agreement you’ve had over the last 5 years. What new is being requested by CBS that was not included in your previous contract that has you at an impasse? I find it hard to believe that Fios would agree to some crazy terms as they want to attract customers, not run them off. Melinda states CBS wants TWC customers to register their TV so you can turn it on (which doesn’t sound like something either company would find profitable information) and they want to keep us from DVR-ing their programs. I can’t believe this is the complete story. I know all companies are driven by the bottom line and providing their shareholder’s returns but neither of these statements would seem to be profitable to CBS and something they would want.

    3. Given that CBS offered to keep programming in place while negotiations continued, why did TWC go ahead and blockout the programming? It seems the only people being punished by this are your customers.

    4. I believe you offered a la carte programming as an option to CBS back on 8/5 which they denied. However, isn’t that how Showtime is offered? I pay $12.50 per month outside of my bundled service. Is Showtime/TMC, etc really part of this disagreement? I would be surprised if you only give $2.00 to CBS for Showtime. If so, you are making over a $10 profit so I can’t see why you wouldn’t at least want to get those premium stations back on the air.

    5. As the NFL season and fall season programming is quickly approaching, I’ve read that industry analysts have said that you will lose any negotiating ability you have because you will have gone from angry customers to enraged customers and once Congress gets back in session, they will get involved. It certainly seems that CBS is not backing down and once football starts, they will have no incentive to do so, especially as customers in those effected markets (i.e. NY) by their CBS station blackout are being courted by FIOS and CBS has said retransmission fees are not a significant revenue stream for them.It doesn’t seem they have an incentive to backdown from the deal they have offered.

    I fortunately live in an area where local CBS is not impacted but I really don’t watch any CBS programs. However, I do watch several Showtime shows and that is what I do miss. There is no way to watch those either as online services or purchase those shows through Amazon or Itunes.

    I understand that economic specifics can’t be shared but I think some type of update on a daily basis via Facebook or email on negotiations is the least that you can do for your customers. You may be surprised to find that customers that are given true information and kept updated won’t be as mad as they have become due to the way this has been handled by TWC.

    I am not expecting either of you to reply but I am becoming more frustrated by the minute and the silence from TWC has become deafening.

  12. raymond matts's reply

    I can appreciate the effort that TWC is putting forth. With the astronomical fees TWC charges the greed seems to run both ways. TWC you consistently put out an inferior product with horrible service at a premium price! In the end we are the ones always suffering at some level.

  13. ann bowen's reply

    I pay over300$ a month for Tec services and I expect to get what I pay for. Stop this game of who’s got the bigger one and settle this. I want my football and my shows.

  14. Jack's reply

    As I heard and read,

    CBS wants about $2.00 more PER SUB to appear on customer’s bills. Verizon agreed to about $1.50 per month, which is still too high. Previously TWC had been paying CBS about 88 cents per sub. My belief is that a new deal will be made before the start of the NFL Football season, probably for somewhere between 95 cents to 1.00 more for a rate increase. (Not the $2.00 CBS wanted, nor the $1.50 that Verizon took.) I also predict that CBS will get more broadband distribution for the CBS Sports Network, which is currently only on TWC Sports Pass and TWC will offer CBS more On-Demand content, mobile programing.

    The stall right now in the negotiations is CBS wants to charge premium prices for their On-Line programming, that TWC thinks should be available for free. The lowest of the low stunt by CBS was taking away all of their programing for TWC Internet subs, even if they don’t get TWC cable TV!

    I agree with TWC that a fair price has to be reached. Verizon only has about 5 million subs and is new. TWC in contrast has been around for decades and has served customers for longer periods of time with other services like Digital Phone and High Speed Internet that are better than Verizon. TWC also has about 15-20 million subs compared to Verizon’s 5 million. Being Grandfather Claused like this, TWC deserves a better deal from CBS than Verizon.


  15. Patrick Harris's reply

    As a TWC customer, it is difficult for me to believe that TWC has my best interest in mind when they gladly accepted my payment for Showtime services in July, and August for services that I have not received, nor have I received a refund. After calling twice, I was advised that my refund would show up on my next bill. I wonder what would have happened to my money had I not called. Why wasn’t I given an immediate refund when the services were cancelled? It is clear that TWC is not bearing the burden of this blackout when they continue to take and keep the fees for services they are not providing. It is very easy to play hardball with someone else’s money. I for one, will be looking elsewhere soon if this problem is not resolved.

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