AT&T has maintained that it not only offered CBS an “unprecedented rate increase,” but that the broadcaster wouldn’t let it sell All Access as a separate option and thus give customers the choice of subscribing to basic TV bundles without CBS included. CBS was allegedly trying to turn a free-to-air station into a premium channel while “leaving cable and satellite customers holding the bag.”
To no one’s surprise, CBS has provided a very different version of events. It characterized the blackout as the result of a “long and clear track record” of AT&T using “aggressive tactics” to underpay networks, pointing to recent disputes like those with Nexstar (still ongoing) and Viacom (avoided with a last-minute settlement in March). AT&T’s competitors have agreed to these terms, it added.
CBS is warning that the blackout could last a long time, although we’ve seen how this sort of dispute typically plays out — the two sides vow never to compromise until they suddenly do. As it stands, both have an incentive to reach a deal quickly. The football season gets underway in September, and CBS’ fall season is right around the corner. If there’s no new contract by then, customers may jump ship for other TV providers and channels — and there are plenty of both thanks to internet video.