How to Deal with Network Blackouts

Time Warner Cable (TWC) once again has bad publicity and angry customers as the company childishly fights with CBS over retransmission fees. The CBS blackout for 3.2 million TWC customers in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas has been in effect since August 2 and there is no clear sign of a coming agreement.

tv-network-blackoutsCBS has lost revenue due to fewer advertisement impressions. TWC will likely lose customers, in addition to fighting a lawsuit that claims customers are paying fees for channels they no longer receive.

Both companies have thrown punches. CBS came to an agreement with Verizon FiOS, almost identical to the TWC-offered agreement. In return, to avoid paying retransmission fees, TWC is offering free antennas for its customers to access CBS.

A history of blackouts

This isn’t the first TV-provider and network fight. One of the more recent cases involving DirecTV was a dispute with Viacom, which includes more than a dozen channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. For nine days, approximately 20 million customers went without the Viacom-owned channels. Viacom demanded a more than 30 percent increase in fees, and it ended with DirecTV caving into Viacom’s harsh contract agreements.

More recently, Dish fought with Gannett, who has affiliate stations with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Dish had just released the Hopper, a digital video recorder that allows viewers to fast-forward through commercials of recorded shows. In order to compensate for the lost ad impressions, Gannett demanded a 300 percent increase in fees. Thankfully for Dish customers, the issue was resolved just days before the threatened blackout.

Noticeable increase in piracy rates

The ongoing fight between TWC and CBS has resulted in a jump in piracy rates. During the second week of August in New York City, the piracy rate of all U.S. downloads increased to 3 percent, more than double the 1.3 percent rate from previous weeks. For one of the most watched CBS shows, Under the Dome, ratings fell while the piracy rate increased 34 percent.

How to legally watch inaccessible shows

Although the blackout’s not your fault, it’s still illegal to download pirated TV shows. So while you’re waiting for the two companies to stop their childish bickering, here are three ways to get around these blackouts and watch your favorite shows legally:

  1. Go to the channel’s website: It’s normal for stations to post the most recent episode of a TV series on their website. If you have high-speed local internet, stream your favorite shows from these websites. You’ll have to sit through commercials like you do with the TV, but at least you won’t get behind on the storyline.
  2. Buy episodes on Amazon Prime: If your TV-provider won’t pay the fees, you can always purchase individual episodes on Amazon for only $1.99. Then, watch the show on your tablet or use a wireless media streamer to see it on the big TV.
  3. Set up the bunny-ear antenna: Yes, these still exist. If you’re a TWC customer affected by the blackout, they are offering households an antenna for free. If not, you can buy them online or from an electronics store. Plop the “ears” on top of the TV and move them around until you get a clear image – the same way your grandpa used to do it on his black and white TV.

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