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FCC chairwoman threatens to intervene in CBS, Time Warner Cable cable fees fight

CBS remains dark on the Time Warner Cable lineup in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
CBS remains dark on the Time Warner Cable lineup in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

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The head of the Federal Communications Commission threatened to intervene if CBS and Time Warner Cable can’t come to an agreement soon.

FCC Interim chairwoman Mignon Clyburn wasn’t specific about what she would do, only saying she would take “appropriate action” if the two sides can’t end their spat.

“Quite frankly I’m deeply disappointed that the parties seem to be unable to reach a retransmission agreement," Clyburn said at the end of Friday's FCC meeting. "I am really distressed that consumers and viewers are being adversely affected.”

The two sides returned to the bargaining table, but CBS, at least, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get back on the air.

It released a statement boasting that the blackout has had a tiny impact on its viewership.

CBS says prime time ratings for its shows, including "Under the Dome," were affected in only the slightest way this week compared to last, when there was no blackout.

Ratings were down by just  one-tenth of 1 percent in the three cities Time Warner is not showing CBS – L.A., Dallas and New York.

Time Warner released its own statement agreeing with Clyburn that consumers are being adversely affected and hoping that CBS will soon come to a reasonable agreement.

Fight over digital rights 

Media consultant Chris Bevilacqua says TV is almost a sideshow at this point, as the two sides wrangle over digital video rights.

“The big fight is all about digital, who has control over the customer…who has control over iPhones, and smartphones and laptops,” said Bevilacqua.

At issue: Can Time Warner show old episodes of shows like "The Big Bang Theory" on its on-demand service? Or can CBS sell those rights to Netflix? 

Time Warner also reportedly wanted only cable subscribers to have access to shows on – a lucrative source of revenue for CBS.

As the dispute enters its second week, Time Warner customers in L.A. already missed a Dodgers game on CBS-owned KCAL Ch. 9 and won’t be able to watch the PGA Championship this weekend on CBS 2.

Those tuning in for the final round on Sunday will instead be treated to a showing of the 1999 sci-fi comedy: "My Favorite Martian."