The settlement of the bitter contract negotiations between Time Warner Cable and CBS cost cable subscribers in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas a month of darkness on CBS-owned channels, including Showtime. Viewers were denied “Under the Dome,” “Ray Donovan” and, in L.A., nine Dodgers games.

Not surprisingly, the two giant corporations settled less than a week before the kickoff of the National Football League season, much of which airs on CBS. A football blackout would have been bad news for both Time Warner, which might have lost subscribers, and CBS, which might have lost ratings and advertisers. Neither side divulged details of the new contract, but both put out statements declaring some measure of satisfaction.

We’re glad the battle is over but annoyed that it took so long. And here’s a word of warning to the companies: Viewers may not continue to tolerate extended blackouts and constantly rising fees.

Although CBS was demanding higher fees from Time Warner Cable, which the operator publicly balked at, the most difficult negotiations in this case were said to be over digital rights. CBS wanted the broadest possible ability to sell its programming to digital platforms, while Time Warner Cable wanted rights to as much content as possible. According to news reports, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves suggested in a memo to staff that the network had prevailed as far as online transmission rights were concerned.

Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt lamented that the regulations in the 1992 Cable Act, establishing the right of broadcasters to seek compensation from pay-TV operators airing their programming, were “woefully out of date.” He’s right about that. It’s time for Congress to adjust them to catch up with two decades of enormous changes in the way television shows are made, sold and shown in this country.

— Los Angeles Times, Sept. 3

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