"CBS Corp. aired ads in three major U.S. markets this week urging fans to switch television providers before the start of the professional and college football seasons to pressure Time Warner Cable Inc. to end a month-long blackout over fee increases," Reuters reports.
"The ads, which feature a much-anticipated matchup between star sibling NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, are designed to highlight what Time Warner subscribers would miss should the blackout in those major markets extends into the rabidly followed football season."
CBS and corporate sibling Showtime have been blacked out on Time Warner systems in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, along with some smaller markets, since Aug. 2.
"Analysts predict the blackout — affecting more than 3 million homes — will end around the NFL regular-season kickoff on Sept. 8, as both sides fear a backlash from irate football fans blocked from watching the hugely popular sport," Reuters reports. "CBS’s ad, which began airing this week in the three largest affected markets, encouraged viewers to ‘tell your friends with Time Warner Cable to switch providers now, so they’ll be ready for the games on CBS.’"
Said sports TV consultant Ed Desser: "They both realize that this was the big skirmish ahead of them, when TV viewers started paying attention after the doldrums of the summer."
Reuters adds: "The CBS ad included shots of the Manning brothers, who will face each other in a Sept. 15 game between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants.
"’It’s Peyton versus Eli in what could be their last match up ever,’ the ad proclaims."
The ad also features defending college football champion Alabama, which faces Texas A&M in a CBS game Sept. 14. A&M upset Alabama last season.
Said cable analyst Craig Moffett of Moffett Research: "At the end of the day, CBS programming is just too valuable and CBS’s sports lineup is too compelling for Time Warner to remain dark once football season starts."
Moffett adds: "Time Warner Cable will be taking a tremendous risk to let it get that close to the Manning Bowl. What has probably been a minimal trickle of consumer defections would turn into a torrent if it started to look like it might not be televised."