Retrans Volleys

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If Verizon Communications' new retrans deal with CBS is indeed close to the deal that CBS presented to Time Warner Cable, the MSO has a message for the telco: Good luck with that.

“All I can say is condolences to Verizon if they signed the deal that CBS put in front of us,” TWC executive vice president and chief video and content officer Melinda Witmer said in a video interview embedded in this blog entry posted Friday (August 23).

“Everything from having to register your television set to be able to turn it on , to giving up your DVR capability in the future, among many other asks that CBS put on the table that would truly harm our consumer experience,” said Witmer, who is spearheading TWC’s negotiations with CBS. “So I hope for Verizon’s sake that they didn’t sign that. But if they did, I’m glad for us because we’ll compete that much better against them when we finish our deal.”

So, she won’t be all that sorry. This is business, after all.

Witmer’s comments, part of a longer post about the ongoing dispute with CBS, were said in response to a leaked internal memo from CBS chief Les Moonves issued last Thursday that expressed his frustration with the lack of progress with TWC and claimed the deal offered to the MSO was “almost exactly the same deal for CBS carriage to which Verizon has agreed.”

Moonves’ memo didn’t touch on specifics of the new deal with Verizon, but he does believe it gave CBS “fair value for our over-the-air rights, while preserving our streaming rights as well.” He also charged that TWC is “demanding different terms than any other company in the business.”

Witmer, meanwhile, denied assertions that TWC is trying to negotiate terms that would attempt to block competitive video entrants. “[N]either the agreement that we had for the last five years or the one we’re working on today in any way stops new competitors from entering the marketplace,” she said.

At this point, more than three weeks since the blackout go started, neither side appears ready to blink.

“CBS can throw their best at us and we’re still going to keep fighting for what’s right for the company,” Witmer said.

Until a deal is secured, and the canned, congratulatory, water-under-the-bridge comments from both sides grace that announcement, expect the rhetoric from both sides to remain on high heat.