That fight about fees that Time Warner Cable pay CBS -- which has Time Warner blacking out CBS and Showtime for millions of people in New York, Los Angeles, and other places -- is in its third week. And for customers, it turns out breaking up with Time Warner isn't necessarily easy.
A couple days after the CBS blackout began, Nikki Muller tried to leave Time Warner because she was moving from Burbank, Calif., one of the areas affected by the blackout. She got caught in an unusually long queue. Muller was on hold for more than two hours -- enough time to eat dinner and watch a couple shows, she said.
(Marketplace called Time Warner's toll-free line this afternoon and got through in just a few minutes; the time and day you call seem to matter.)
It’s too soon to say if anecdotal reports of high call volume mean Time Warner Cable is losing lots of customers over the CBS spat. Mike Hodel, an analyst with Morningstar, said and he thinks not. He said consumers are less likely to notice programming outages over the summer. It’s the fall prime time season -- and especially NFL football season, he said -- when they’ll get mad.
“Our feeling is that until you get to a point where there’s real consumer pain, like you’ll likely have around the football season, that both sides have an incentive to continue to push for what they want and not give in,” he said.
In other words, expect the brinkmanship to continue until September.