Time Warner Will Survive the CBS Blackout, and So Will You


Millions in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York still don't have access to their local CBS stations due to a disagreement between the network and Time Warner Cable, and the blackout is expected to continue until the start of football season on Sept. 8. The dispute occurred because of the fees Time Warner Cable is obligated to pay CBS for the right to retransmit their broadcast stations, and has caused many to ask why consumers are even using cable services when they can watch television online and on Netflix. But live television including news and sports will keep cable alive, at least for the foreseeable future.

The feud between CBS and Time Warner isn't just about retransmitting fees. According to the New York Times, the "focus of the dispute" is the rights to programming packages that CBS sells to on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon. "Time Warner Cable wants to gain access to that content; CBS insists it would mean Time Warner Cable was getting for free something it sells for hundreds of millions of dollars to on-demand services," says Thursday's article.

Meanwhile, consumers are calling for action. Three residents in Southern California are filing a class action lawsuit against Time Warner Cable. And the government, which in a sense caused this issue by creating the Cable Act of 1992, is involved as well as political figures come on the scene to stand up for consumers and urge the FCC to end the blackout.

The fact that blackouts can occur because Congress and the FCC didn't listen to cable operators' demands "to adopt rules that prevent consumers from losing access to programming during these disputes" could be enough for consumers to drop cable and rely completely on online programming and on-demand services like Netflix.

However, cable companies are still not dying, as least not yet.

"Cord-cutting" is certainly rampant. According to Forbes, "From 2010 to 2012, about 5 million new households formed. Barely 200,000 of them signed up for any kind of dedicated TV service." However, while consumers could be relying solely on Netflix for entertainment, many are also trying to save money by using antennas for free network television. Consumers do not want to be a part of a corporate dispute, but will still try to gain access to live television, local news, and sports.

Seeking out network television online and via antennas doesn't signify the end of cable, just the end to the way people consume cable's content.

Many even supplement their cable-watching with Netflix and other on-demand programming. TIME argues that Netflix contributed to the record-breaking 5.9 million viewers of the Breaking Bad premiere on AMC. Since the service allows binge viewing for loyal viewers to marathon watch the old seasons ahead of the new one, and offers a chance for new viewers to catch up, it actually increases the amount of people willing to tune in for a live premiere.

The magic of Netflix isn't wearing off any time soon, but as long as there is still news to broadcast and games to watch, cable providers will still be relevant. However, if these providers continue to cut off access to already wary subscribers, those subscribers will always find another way to get their television fix.