Unplug From CBS-TWC

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As the local media in New York update the days of darkness for CBS and Showtime (Day 29!) here’s a bit of advice for the 3 million affected: Unplug.

And by unplug I mean literally unplug your TV set. Go outside for a hike. Read a book. Learn to twerk. Do something that doesn’t involve a screen.

I’d rather have a double root canal than hear another story about viewers “suffering” from the loss of TV. When Time Warner Cable and CBS feel enough self-inflicted pain from the loss of eyeballs, a deal will get struck — it always does. CBS is losing ad dollars, and TWC is losing customers.

This is not a crisis. Not even close. It’s a spat between two highly profitable media giants over how extremely generous profits should be divided. A fight that should have been settled behind closed doors weeks ago with more foresight by reasonable executives. Let’s try to remember that TV shows, even football games, are not basic necessities of life.

Neither the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission nor anyone in Congress is going to step into this brawl, and for a very good reason: Watching the latest episode of Under the Dome is not a constitutionally protected right. TV is a service we choose to buy from various providers. Or choose not to buy.

Moreover, neither side genuinely wants the federal government involved in the fight for the very legitimate fear that the government can very capably screw things up even worse than they are now, jeopardizing profits.

CBS’s first local National Football League telecast in New York is Sept. 15, and things will almost certainly get settled on or near that date. But affected viewers should use the spat as an excuse to tune out for a while, and get their heads out of their screens, a la Nick’s “Worldwide Day of Play” campaign.

The biggest threat to the TV business isn’t which service you pick — it’s your ability to walk away. Walk away from a show, a network or even a provider. Because at the moment, TV is competing for your time more than anything else. The most precious things a cable company or broadcast network can own are part of a person’s day and the loyalty viewers hold for the service.

In a TV ecosystem ripe with nimble competitors prepared to step in seamlessly, CBS and TWC are fiddling while their relationships with customers burn.

Remember: It’s only TV.

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