Considering how much CBS’ Les Moonves has boasted of cash for carriage over the years, the broadcaster’s Thurs announcement that it had inked 9 retrans deals with cable operators was a bit of a letdown. Where was the Moonves that brazenly suggested CBS get 50 cents/sub or a rate along the lines of USA, last year’s top-rated primetime cable net? Instead, there was only the implication that CBS is getting cash (maybe the boldness will return during Tues’ earnings call). "Clearly there is a new paradigm in the marketplace—one that recognizes the value of the content that we bring to our various audiences," Moonves said. "This is a trend that bodes well for us going forward as future retransmission deals are negotiated." CBS announced deals with 9 unnamed ops that cover 1mln subs; some of those ops are top 25 MSOs. All of the deals include analog, digital, multicast and HD rights to programming on CBS owned-and-operated stations (CBS declined to say which O&Os are involved in the pacts). The broadcaster has said most of its large cable deals don’t expire until 2009-2010. "Although it is too soon to tell exactly what impact these deals will have, CBS has definitely been pressuring independent operators to sign retrans deals," ACA‘s Matt Polka said Thurs. "And there is definitely a ‘cost’ to these agreements that consumers will have to bear." Moonves’ words bore a striking resemblance to Sinclair CEO David Smith, who earlier this month urged broadcasters to demand cash for carriage in this "significant time in history." Sinclair recently inked deals with Mediacom and Time Warner Cable. Comcast is currently negotiating with Sinclair, with 3mln subs at risk of losing 30 stations in 23 markets if the 2 don’t reach an agreement by Mar 1. Comcast has said it won’t pay cash for the stations. Meanwhile, the Coalition for Retransmission Reform (which includes Cox and Bright House) just last week filed comments at the FCC bemoaning the current regime. "Since there is general consensus that broad attainment of cash compensation for retransmission consent by one network will lead to cash payments for all 4 networks, entry-level basic tier subscribers could soon face fee hikes of roughly 15% on average," the coalition warned.

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