CBS calls ‘a la carte’ cable offer a sham

LOS ANGELES — Time Warner Cable Inc. CEO Glenn Britt has offered to end a four-day blackout of CBS stations in three major cities, saying the cable operator would allow CBS to sell its stations’ signal ‘‘a la carte’’ to consumers instead of bundling it with other channels.

That would ‘‘allow customers to decide for themselves how much value they ascribe to CBS programming,’’ Britt said in a letter to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves that was released to the media.


CBS Corp. called the proposal a ‘‘sham.’’

‘‘Anyone familiar with the entertainment business knows that the economics and structure of the cable industry doesn’t work that way and isn’t likely to for quite some time,’’ it said.

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CBS signals have been blacked out to some 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas since Friday in a dispute over how much the cable operator has to pay for CBS programming. Britt’s proposal is a radical departure from how TV is sold today — in packages that can contain a hundred or more channels.

Craig Moffett, an industry analyst with Moffett Research LLC, called the proposal ‘‘mostly a bit of theater’’ that CBS would never accept.

‘‘CBS would never agree to a model where customers could opt to take it or leave it,’’ he said. ‘‘The economics of that would never be as attractive as the current model, where everyone has to pay whether they want the service or not.’’

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