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CBS chief slams Time Warner Cable proposal to end blackout

Date August 06, 2013

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - CBS Corp Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves on Tuesday rejected the latest proposal by Time Warner Cable Inc to end its blackout and dismissed the cable company's offer as a public relations stunt.

Even though both sides urged each other to return to the negotiating table, talks seemed to have broken down, with no resolution in sight to the blackout affecting more than 3 million Time Warner Cable customers.

In the three-page letter released to the media on Tuesday, Moonves said that he had "not heard from anybody at Time Warner Cable to discuss anything at all" and said that Britt's letter was a "public letter masquerading as a private one."

The blackout of CBS' owned stations and cable networks on Time Warner Cable's systems in the largest U.S. markets, New York and Los Angeles, is now in its fourth day. It has deprived viewers of summer hit "Under the Dome" and live sports, such as golf, that air on the broadcast network.

In New York, the fracas has caught the attention of mayoral candidates, including city Comptroller John Liu. He issued a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday asking for an emergency meeting to discuss penalties against Time Warner Cable, including a possible termination of its franchise agreement and a fine levied each day a cable channel is dark.

Moonves called Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt's proposal a distraction and not "sincere or helpful." Moonves also said the cable company's offer to sell CBS channels to subscribers one-by-one on an "a la carte" basis an "empty gesture" and unrealistic and countered the cable company to offer its pricy regional sports network channels in the same manner.

In response to Moonves' letter, a Time Warner Cable spokesman said: "We're disappointed that they've offered no solutions; we've offered two. Our offer was sincere, and they still haven't addressed the blocking of CBS.com."

CBS has blocked access to shows on the CBS.com website for the cable operator's customers in New York and Los Angeles.

On Monday, Time Warner Cable rival Verizon FiOS said it was receiving requests for service from Time Warner Cable customers who could not watch CBS.

Shares of CBS were down 0.2 percent at $53.74 in morning trading, while Time Warner Cable fell 1 percent to $115.31.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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