Time Warner Cable and Verizon are teaming to advocate for new federal rules that restrict content owners from blacking out programming during contract renegotiations, even as the two aggravate each other with ads about getting blacked out.
ABC famously blacked out the first few minutes of the Academy Awards show from Cablevision during a retrans contract dispute earlier this year, and Fox blacked out some sports content from TWC late last year.
TWC, Verizon, AT&T, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network and several other companies, along with the American Cable Association and public interest groups the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, have banded as the American Television Alliance to pressure the FCC for rules changes that prevent programmers from blacking out content when retrans negotiations stall.
Many of the companies that have joined the new alliance have separately petitioned the FCC for such rules changes.
Many of the companies that have joined the new alliance are, oddly enough, squabbling with each other over retrans problems. AT&T is renegotiating with Cablevision for rights to AMC, We TV and IFC; AT&T says Cablevision is threatening to black out those channels.
TWC, meanwhile, is currently renegotiating its retransmission contract with Disney, a set of ABC stations and ESPN (Disney owns ABC and ESPN). Disney is threatening to black out programming if a contract isn't signed by Sept. 1.
Verizon has been taking advantage of the TWC-Disney spat by running ads pointing out that TWC might get blacked out from ABC and Disney programming, hoping to encourage some TWC subscribers to switch to FiOS.
TWC is preparing response ads, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. "We'll keep fighting to keep costs reasonable for our customers and keep your favorite shows on the air," says the Time Warner Cable ad, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "We expect to reach a new agreement so we can bring you Disney's sports, news and entertainment programming at a reasonable price for years to come."