As CBS Blackout Continues, Another Suggestion to Just Stream TV Online

'Under the Dome' is on Amazon, While PGA Championship is Free at PGA.com

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Dennis Goodman watches about three hours of golf on TV every weekend, regardless of who's playing. He even bought a ticket to see a practice round in person at this week's PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y.

Some fans will have to stream Tiger Woods' attempt to come back after faltering at the Masters
Some fans will have to stream Tiger Woods' attempt to come back after faltering at the Masters

The 67-year-old is also a subscriber of Time Warner Cable, which has blacked out CBS Corp.' flagship network amid a failure to come to terms on a new contract. If CBS remains dark this weekend, more than 3 million customers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas won't be able to watch the tournament on TV. They'll have to fire up the internet to track the action, something that doesn't appeal to Goodman.

"It's a bunch of garbage," he said of the blackout, which began almost a week ago after talks between the two sides broke down. "I wouldn't sit in front of a computer all day."

But the latest flashpoint between Time Warner Cable and CBS, which are waging a battle with implications for the entire industry, is again reminding consumers that there are non-traditional, potentially cheaper ways to get much of the TV programming they want. Episodes "Under the Dome," CBS's summer hit, is available at no additional cost to Amazon Prime subscribers days after they first run. Anyone can buy and download episodes through Amazon as well.

Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable company, is encouraging its subscribers affected by the blackout to watch the tournament on the PGA's website, which will stream coverage this weekend from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. New York time.

"We're inviting all our customers without CBS who are golf fans to catch complete PGA Championship coverage live on PGA.com this weekend," said Bobby Amirshahi, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable.

For all its disruptive undertones, however, the dispute may be stuck on Time Warner Cable's efforts to preserve the status quo. CBS said Thursday at a City Council hearing in New York that the cable company wants to limit CBS's ability to sell content to streaming platforms such as Amazon and Netflix.

CBS, for its part, is suggesting that Time Warner Cable customers drop the cable service and find another pay-TV company. "In most instances, there do continue to be options for fans to explore other programming providers, including Verizon FiOS, RCN, DirecTV and others," said Dana McClintock, a spokesman for CBS. "We look forward to being back on the air as soon as possible."

So far, the blackout hasn't spurred a "noticeable" number of defections, Mr. Amirshahi said.

Last year's PGA Championship weekend audience drew an average of nearly 3.7 million viewers on CBS, according to Brad Adgate, director of research for Horizon Media. That's about a third of the total viewership for the most recent episode of "Under the Dome."

Golf alone probably won't spur the two sides to reach an agreement, said David Bank, a media analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

The start of the National Football League season will provide a bigger incentive to negotiate, though that is still weeks away. While Time Warner Cable football fans will miss preseason matchups this weekend, the regular games won't begin until early next month.

"This could go on for a while," Mr. Bank said. "NFL regular-season kickoff is probably the catalyst to bring it to an end."

While some discussions between CBS and Time Warner Cable took place this week, the negotiations have largely been held via the media. Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt and CBS Chief Les Moonves have traded open letters, with both sides accusing the other of punishing customers.

The jockeying doesn't interest Douglas Steel, a retired graphics designer who lives in Manhattan. He just wants to watch the tournament from his Upper West Side apartment this weekend without having to log onto the Internet.

"It's stupid, the whole thing," Mr. Steel said. "It would be easier to watch it on my television rather than my iPad."

Time Warner, the former parent of Time Warner Cable, is running some coverage of the tournament on its TNT network.

~ Bloomberg News and Ad Age staff ~

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