Aug. 5, 2013 — -- The bitter standoff between CBS and one of the nation's largest cable television providers, now in its fourth day, has left millions of paying customers without their favorite programs in a channel blackout that could last for weeks.
About 3 million Time Warner Cable customers in cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas are experiencing a blue screen where they are used to CBS-Showtime programming. Showtime Networks is a division of CBS.
"CBS has demanded an outrageous increase for programming ... requiring us to remove their stations from your lineup," Time Warner Cable said in a statement.
As for CBS, "We remain ready to negotiate in good faith when they are," the network said in a statement Sunday.
Its Sunday newspaper ads read, "Call Time Warner Cable now. Tell them you want your CBS 2 back!"
Adweek executive editor Tony Case told ABC News, "Every day that it's dark it's trouble for the consumer, for the advertisers for the cable company and for the network."
At issue is a battle over the fees Time Warner pays CBS to run its programming. Television networks made an estimated $2.4 billion on such fees last year.
"CBS is paid from 75 cents to $1 a subscriber in New York, and wants $2 per subscriber," Case said. "And Time Warner Cable's balking at having to pay that amount of money for a network that streams over the air for free."
Without a resolution, it's now consumers who are paying the price -- and sounding off on social media.
"Time Warner Cable should be on Dexter's kill table," Daniel Alvarado tweeted, while Cheryl Medrano said, "Get a life CBS, it is you that wants to raise rates for poor hardworking people."
This is not the first time cable companies have blocked channels from their lineups. DirecTV blacked out Viacom networks MTV and Nickelodeon for nine days last year over a fee dispute.
"The consumer should be aware that this could happen to any channel in any market now. A precedent has been set," Adweek's Case said.
For affected customers, rather than attaching an antenna to their TV set -- per Time Warner Cable's suggestion to customers who can't live without CBS -- analysts say many are more likely to turn to the Web.
"Nobody likes the cable company, and there are already so many alternatives to cable," Case said. "There's Aereo, there's Netflix, there's Amazon, there are the satellite dish companies. And this is just going to be another reason for consumers to cut the cord."
Time Warner and CBS have reportedly halted conversations to bring the blackout to an end. Wall Street analysts gaming the situation have said that this could last anywhere from 10 days to six weeks, with the start of football season.