While it didn’t reference comments Wednesday by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on his company’s earnings call, CBS Corp. issued what it called a “fact sheet” about its ongoing carriage dispute with the telecom giant.
The company did not divulge exact numbers, but reported a “dramatic spike in new subscribers” to its CBS All Access streaming service last weekend, compared with the same weekend in 2018. It also said more than a quarter of a million calls have come in to a special telephone hotline set up for those affected by the dispute.
Stephenson said it’s been “crickets” from CBS since AT&T sent its most recent offer across the table. CBS stations in 14 markets, including New York and LA, went dark late Friday for nearly million customers of DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse. At the same time he drew attention to what he described a lack of action by CBS, Stephenson also said the companies are “very close” on deal terms and “the bid/ask, candidly, is not that wide.”
CBS appeared to be responding to the AT&T boss with one of the five numbered items in particular as part of the “fact sheet.” The company said it “remains ready and available to negotiate and as of today its offer of an unconditional 30-day extension still stands.”
It then offered a timeline. “When the original agreement between CBS and AT&T was set to expire on June 30, CBS offered a 19-day extension to make good faith efforts to broker a fair deal,” CBS said. “On Friday, July 19 – the day AT&T dropped CBS from its customers’ channel lineups – CBS offered AT&T an unconditional 30-day extension of the prior deal. AT&T rejected that offer and took CBS off its systems. (AT&T had offered a six-day extension subject to CBS accepting all of AT&T’s terms and conditions.)”
One other item included in the CBS release was a table outlining key programming dates. While regular prime-time programming tilts toward unscripted and re-runs in the summer, the fall season starts September 23. And even now, nightly staples like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert are offering new episodes, CBS noted.
Also, while regular season NFL games are still more than a month off, preseason games start in two weeks. Many of those primetime contests draw highly concentrated audiences in the hometown markets. The defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots play the Detroit Lions on August 8 and the local station carrying the game, WBZ in Boston, is currently part of the blackout.
All Access, which features more live programming than most subscription streaming offerings, has shown steady progress since hitting the market in 2015. CBS Corp. has projected that All Access and Showtime’s streaming app will combine for 25 million subscribers by 2022. The company generally doesn’t break out the split between the two but in recent months its management team has said it is a fairly even split between the two.
In the carriage talks, AT&T has asked for the ability to offer All Access to its own pay-TV subscribers, as tech players such as Amazon, Roku and Apple do. CBS so far has refused, and has not bless any such arrangement with traditional MVPDs.