Trump Talks

08.13.13

The Bickering Behemoths Saga, Continued: Trump Weighs In

As if there wasn’t enough machismo on display already, Donald Trump has waded into the battle between CBS and Time Warner Cable. Lloyd Grove on the latest corporate salvos.

King Kong has just leapt into the fearsome battle between Godzilla and Mothra—which is to say, Donald Trump is inserting himself into the long-running feud over carriage fees between CBS Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

Judging by the violence of the Donald’s chest-thumping, he’s plenty pissed off.

“I missed the PGA Championship because it was not broadcast by TimeWarner,” the reality star/real estate mogul tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, referring to CBS’s blacked-out coverage of last weekend’s golf tournament. “Why aren’t they giving subscribers major discounts?”

A few minutes later, Trump—whose company builds and operates golf courses among other projects—followed up with a threat: “I am going to be switching many of my buildings to another service—this is ridiculous!”

TWC’s communications czar, Ellen East, had a quick response: “We're sorry Mr. Trump is upset but we would hope that, as a businessman, he understands why we're focused on keeping our costs down so we can keep our customers’ bills reasonable.”

Uh huh.

For CBS and TWC—two hugely profitable corporate behemoths that are fighting over a reported $1 upcharge per subscriber in monthly fees that the broadcast network wants from the cable distributor—Tuesday was business as usual for backbiting and insults. For around three million TWC customers in eight television markets, including The Donald in New York City, it's the 11th day of being denied CBS programming.

And as if that isn’t injury enough to the innocent victims of the misbehaving media giants, the Tiffany Network has also been blocking TWC users from accessing full episodes of CBS shows online, driving many of them to a pathetic last resort of buying old-timey rabbit ears (an unworkable option in most of Manhattan) in hopes of receiving a signal.

"We're sorry Mr. Trump is upset."

CBS, meanwhile, has also been sending out mass emails crowing that the whole sad imbroglio has had zero effect on ratings (presumably giving the network zero incentive to cave to its bitter enemy). In one such email on Tuesday, CBS gloated that TWC has suffered a loss of subscribers for the 18th consecutive business quarter—more than a million in all, amounting to 9 percent of the cable operator’s customer base.

But lest that fact undermine the network’s quest for double the money, “Time Warner Cable remains a well-funded company, with considerable resources—including a high-margin broadband business—among other revenue sources,” CBS’s spinmeisters argued. To which the indomitable East replied: “We think they should stop trying to distract the media with these sideshows and focus more on restoring their channels for our customers and their viewers.”

All this comes as TWC announced on Tuesday that its television service will be going all-digital as of September 17; and beginning in 2015, the company will charge customers who need digital adapters for their TV sets an additional 99 cents per month—around the same amount that CBS is demanding. A CBS spokeswoman’s sarcastic response: “It’s surprising, coming from a company that continually maintains its concern about keeping its customer’s bills low.”  

One can’t wait to see what David Letterman will make of all this in his nightly monologues. Oh, wait. Never mind.