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DirecTV sides with Time Warner over CBS fee dispute

A Direct TV dish is seen outside a home in the Queens borough of New York July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A Direct TV dish is seen outside a home in the Queens borough of New York July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) - In an unusual show of solidarity between rivals, satellite TV provider DirecTV issued a statement on Saturday applauding Time Warner Cable's decision to drop CBS programming from its lineup in the nation's two largest markets after the two failed to reach an agreement over fees.

The blackout on Friday by Time Warner of CBS, the No. 1-rated U.S. broadcast network, followed weeks of protracted and acrimonious negotiations between the two companies.

CBS retaliated on Friday by suspending videos of full episodes of its programming on CBS.com for customers with Internet access provided by Time Warner Cable in the affected markets, a move that affects DirecTV customers.

"DirecTV has certainly had its share of these battles, so we applaud Time Warner Cable for fighting back against exorbitant programming cost increases," the company said in a statement.

"We are also appalled to learn that CBS is now punishing DIRECTV customers, who may happen to have Time Warner as their Internet provider, by denying them access to CBS content online," the company said, saying the efforts of content companies to extract "outrageous fees" from distributors may have reached "a new low."

DirecTV had its own blackout last summer in which 20 million customers lost access to Viacom channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon for 10 days.

CBS is home to such hits as "The Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS" and is seen by an estimated 3.5 million customers in the affected markets, which include New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

A source familiar with the CBS negotiating strategy told Reuters on Friday the company had offered to extend current terms and keep negotiating in the coming days, adding that no new talks between the sides are scheduled.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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