CBS Says No HD Carriage Guarantees for Cable

Beyond airing Sunday's Super Bowl, CBS sees added value in the network's owned and operated stations' HD signals and is putting cable on notice that it should not assume the broadcaster will not use its HD services as a valuable commodity if cable refuses to adequately recognize the value of its 1080i content.

According to CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks, "If someone won't pay us the fair market value for our HD signal, I won't commit" to allowing the cable operator to continue to offer the channel to its subscribers. Franks was interviewed by the TVPredictions Web site.

The CBS exec was responding to a recent commentary on the Web site that said the FCC should order binding arbitration in the current dispute between Sinclair Broadcast Group in Baltimore, which had pulled nearly two dozen of its local (SD and HD), and Mediacom cable. CBS urged the FCC not to order binding arbitration, which Mediacom had sought. The FCC Media Bureau has endorsed arbitration, but says it will not require it.

The online commentary had speculated that CBS opposed arbitration because it wanted to preserve the option of withholding HD signals at the network's own stations if they ever became engulfed in a similar dispute. Franks disagreed with that contention by the Web site, but he would not totally rule out withholding the network's HD signals in future dealings with content providers.

"Where does it say that it's the God-given right of a multichannel provider to show our HDTV channels?" Franks asked.