CBS Channels Blacked Out on DirecTV over Rates

CBS All Access has seen its subscriptions spike after a dispute with AT&T left viewers with blacked out service.

Deadline.com reported yesterday that CBS Corporation issued a “fact sheet” about its ongoing dispute with AT&T over carriage rates and terms. Over the weekend, viewers on DirecTV and other AT&T services found themselves unable to access CBS content. At the time, CNET quoted statements from both sides. CBS said, “This is just the latest example in AT&T's long and clear track record of letting its consumers pay the price for its aggressive tactics to get programmers to accept below market terms.” AT&T said, in its own statement, “CBS continues to demand unprecedented increases even as CBS advances content on CBS All Access instead of on its local broadcast stations."

And AT&T may have a point. In the fact sheet issued by CBS yesterday, while they didn’t mention exact numbers, they reported a “dramatic spike in new subscribers” to CBS All Access, compared to this time last year. CBS had also set up a customer service phone number to assist viewers unable to access their content, and they said that hotline had been called more than a quarter of a million times.

Ostensibly, CBS’s “fact sheet” is probably meant to be a public-facing pressure tactic, demonstrating the strength of their negotiating position in the dispute. Regardless of the reasoning though, it’s really viewers who are losing out while it remains up in the air. Unless, of course, you’re a cord-cutting advocate, in which case the AT&T blackout seems to have things looking rather sunny for CBS.

Alison Pitt