Class Sues Time Warner Cable|for CBS & Showtime Blackout

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Time Warner Cable faces a class action from customers who are angry at its dropping of Showtime and CBS from its lineup, as part of the corporations’ bitter dispute over fees.
     Lead plaintiff James Armstrong sued Time Warner Cable breach of contract, unfair business practices, unjust enrichment and unconscionability, in Superior Court.
     Time Warner and Showtime owner CBS are fighting over how much Time Warner should pay to rebroadcast CBS network shows.
     Time Warner pulled the plug on CBS on Aug. 2, leaving 3.5 million customers without its programming.
     Though Time Warner dropped Showtime, The Movie Channel, and Los Angeles station KCAL, Armstrong says the cable giant has not given customers credit for shortchanging them on channels.
     Time Warner, in no mood to cave to what it calls CBS’s “outrageous demands,” has offered customers Starz and Encore instead.
     That does not sit well with Armstrong, who says he subscribed to those channels before the blackout. He complains that the offer is not “fungible” to Showtime, home to the acclaimed shows “Dexter” and “Homeland.”
     “Prior to the dispute with CBS, defendant utilized Showtime as a significant incentive to induce customer subscriptions of general cable services through advertisement and marketing materials. Defendant also utilizes CBS’s news content and sports content, including CBS’s local affiliate, as a significant inducement to cause general consumers to subscribe to its basic services,” Armstrong says in the 21-page lawsuit.
     Time Warner knew a contract dispute was brewing when it reeled in new customers last year by offering three months of Showtime for free, Armstrong says.
     He claims he would not have subscribed to Time Warner if he knew it was going to drop the channel.
     “No actual notice of the blackout, or impending dispute that might cause a blackout, was received by plaintiffs so they were in effect, forced to pay for services,” the complaint states.
     Time Warner does not mention in its ads that it dropped Showtime/CBS from its lineup, Armstrong says.
     Showtime claims it offered to let Time Warner keep airing the premium cable channel during negotiations, and “even if an agreement could not be achieved.”
     “Time Warner Cable declined this offer,” Showtime said in a statement.
     “We take pride in the fact that our networks have never gone dark and that our subscribers have never been deprived of their programming,” according to the Showtime statement. “Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, has taken nearly 50 channels off the air in the last five years in disputes like the one we are having right now.”
     In a statement posted on its own website, Time Warner Cable said: “CBS is making outrageous demands for the right to continue carrying their channels. We are holding the line against broadcasters who continue to make their stations available free over-the-air and online while they demand more from cable customers without delivering any additional value.”
     Armstrong seeks restitution and costs of suit.
     He is represented by Daniel Weintraub with Weintraub & Selth.

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