Time Warner Cable subscribers in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas may be steaming that they will miss the CBS series "Under the Dome" for the second week in a row because of a distribution dispute between the two companies.
The back-and-forth between the two media goliaths has received national coverage as the blocking of channels deprives viewers of some preseason football games and golf. It even is increasing piracy of the Stephen King-based thriller “Under the Dome” and lowering ratings for local CBS stations.
But to Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett, these disruptions are becoming so commonplace that we should treat them as a traffic accident on the highway. Just keep moving folks, nothing to see here.
“Give the TWC/CBS blackout extra style points for occurring in New York -- the news media naturally tends to gaze at its own navel -- but still we’re talking a relatively run-of-the-mill occurrence,” Moffett said.
One interesting element, Moffett noted, is the argument over digital rights. CBS wants to be able to scale back Time Warner Cable’s rights over distribution of its programming digitally as online players such as Netflix and Hulu continue to grow.
“The big take-away here is that Netflix has won,” Moffett said. “Like crack dealers, they have succeeded in getting CBS hooked on the incremental revenues of digital distribution.”
Other elements of the dispute -- the rise of programming costs from sports and the increase of cord-cutting -- earn yawns from Moffett.
But not every analyst is bored with carriage disputes.
Analyst and provocateur Richard Greenfield of BTIG Research, who has openly sided with Time Warner Cable in the latest disagreement, published a lengthy blog post Monday saying, among other things, that the U.S. government should get involved if the companies can’t resolve their issues soon. That sentiment echoes earlier calls from lawmakers for the FCC to intervene.
He also conceded that the balance of power between broadcasters and distributors is lopsided in favor of broadcasters.
“The public chafing between both sides is reaching an all-time high, as broadcasters grow more confident that they cannot lose in these battles due to their control of exclusive sports content, along with the government’s complete lack of interest in intervening,” he wrote.
Regardless of whether the dispute is anything new or just a particularly noisy example of a mundane problem, it looks like “Under the Dome” fans in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas will be resorting to piracy for at least another week.
Both Moffett and Greenfield agree that Time Warner Cable will be in a much weaker bargaining position once the National Football League’s regular season starts.
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