In this 2011 photo, a CBS cameraman works during the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans in Houston.
Football lovers in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York may now exhale: CBS Corp. and Time Warner have reached an agreement to resume programming at 6 p.m. ET Sunday, which means fans will be able watch the opening kickoff on TV next weekend.
CBS programming had been blocked from Time Warner customers' homes in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York since Aug. 2. The two companies were at odds most prominently over retransmission fees that the cable operator pays to CBS per subscriber.
"This was a far more protracted dispute than anyone at CBS anticipated," Chief Executive Leslie Moonves wrote in a memo sent to CBS employees on Sunday. "In spite of the pain it caused to all of us, and most importantly the inconvenience to our viewers who were affected, it was an important one, and one worth pursuing to a satisfactory conclusion. That has been achieved."
Moonves did not get into specifics of the deal reached over the weekend, but he did say that CBS would now receive "fair compensation for CBS content," and that the network now has "the ability to monetize our content going forward on all the new, developing platforms that are right now transforming the way people watch television."
Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt released a statement saying, "While we certainly didn't get everything we wanted, ultimately we ended up in a much better place than when we started."
The blackout affected roughly 1.1 million of New York's 7.4 million television households. In Los Angeles, an estimated 1.3 million of 5.6 million households were affected, and 400,000 of Dallas' 2.6 million TV homes. Those are three of the nation's five most populous television markets.
Talks continued over the Labor Day weekend as tennis fans also gritted their teeth: The U.S. Open tennis tournament finals are next weekend, along with the opening weekend of the National Football League. If negotiations had dragged through the month, fans of the popular Showtime program “Homeland” would also have not been able to watch the season premier, as Showtime is a division of CBS.
CBS believed the start of football would increase public pressure on Time Warner to get a deal. The network ran radio advertisements with football announcers like James Brown instructing affected fans on other ways to watch games.
Time Warner responded with its own television ad campaign, telling customers that switching providers isn't a good idea. The ad says there have been some 200 blackouts due to business disputes in recent years, and that "even if you switch, you're still at risk for network blackouts."
Customers may not have been immediately outraged, as the first significant game for one of the three affected local markets was Sept. 15, when the Giants will face the Denver Broncos in a matchup featuring quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning. The New York Jets first appear on the CBS schedule on Sept. 22, and the Cowboys on Oct. 6.
NBC's Isolde Raftery and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published September 2 2013, 3:03 PM