By Ivan G. Goldman
When elephants fight, ants get trampled. That’s an African proverb that may become all too true for boxing fans, because the latest conflict between Time Warner Cable and CBS threatens to black out Showtime boxing in key markets that include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. Showtime is a component of the CBS Corporation.
Among the shows that could be trampled in the squabble is the giant pay-per-view card on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas headlined by Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez fighting at 152 pounds, with junior welters Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia on the undercard. All that pre-fight publicity scheduled to be shown on the CBS broadcast channel would be dead on arrival in the affected cities. The others are Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Denver.
The first boxing show threatened is the Aug. 24 Showtime card from Carson, Calif. headlined by Abner Mares versus Jhonny Gonzalez for Mares’ WBC featherweight title. Also on the card is Victor Terrazas versus Leo Santa Cruz, for Terrazas’ WBC junior featherweight title.
It’s hard to even imagine that these corporations would cripple what’s expected to be the biggest pay-per-view boxing show in history, at least in terms of dollars. But when you consider that sometimes nations go to war, it becomes more conceivable that corporations will go to financial war, and in this case the war has already begun.
If you live in any of the blacked-out areas you probably already noticed that Time Warner began killing its transmissions of CBS and its sister channels Friday when the two giants couldn’t reach an agreement on how much Time Warner should pay for the channels’ programming. Also gone from the affected markets are Showtime, TMC, FLIX and Smithsonian. The contract involves only those stations owned by New York-based CBS Corp. CBS-affiliate stations owned independently or by other broadcasting companies — even if they’re in TWC service areas — are safe for now.
Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff told Reuters that the company offered a one-year extension before it blacked out the channels.
The withholding of service by Time Warner is similar to a labor strike, except it’s between two giant corporations. Once corporate blood is spilled like this, it’s hard to tell whether the bleeding will continue for twenty minutes or a year. There’s much bluster on both sides, but also some sincerity and plenty of hostility.
If the stoppage continues and you live in one of the afflicted cities, be aware that closed circuit presentations of the Mayweather-Alvarez card are already being planned at venues around the country, giving you another way to watch. They shouldn’t be affected.
“We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself,” said CBS, in a statement. Which is, of course, true. Time Warner gets a piece of that pay-per-view bonanza, but only if it delivers the show.
Said Time Warner: “CBS has refused to have a productive discussion. It’s become clear that no matter how much time we give them, they’re not willing to come to reasonable terms.”
The contract expired at the end of June, but the network was kept on the cable company’s lineup as the talks continued. They’ve set numerous deadlines in the last month that were repeatedly ignored. Time Warner briefly began a blackout after midnight on Monday, but quickly reinstated programming as negotiations continued. Friday the ax came down. As of Saturday, no negotiations were scheduled.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.