Les Moonves
Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage

CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves has responded to an open letter released by Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt yesterday with his own open letter, which calls Britt’s proposal to offer CBS on an “a la carte” basis both an empty PR gesture.

Contract disputes have left Time Warner Cable customers in New York, LA, and other markets without CBS since Friday afternoon.

Moonves begins by taking a jab at Britt, criticizing him for simultaneously releasing his letter to both CBS’s upper management and the media. He goes on to accuse Britt of “grandstanding” rather than attempting true negotiation: “First, after reviewing your letter, we have concluded that there is not a sincere or helpful proposal in it. It is, rather, a well-wrought distraction.”

Moonves then addresses Britt’s a la carte proposal, calling it “an empty gesture”: “The economics and structure of the cable industry have created a certain way that content is distributed and compensated,” he writes. “We both know that a true a la carte universe is not one that Time Warner Cable welcomes.” Moonves cites TWC’s new Lakers and Dodgers channels as an example, noting that the cable provider’s L.A. subscribers cannot purchase those channels a la carte; instead, they must pay to receive them each month “whether they want them or not.”

Finally, Moonves urges TWC to reconsider, asking the cable provider to agree to the same kind of deal he says CBS has struck (“without incident”) with “every other cable operator, telco and satellite provider.”

“What you are asking for, pure and simple, is either to gain the right to deliver content for free that others are paying for, or to inhibit CBS from licensing content to existing online competitors and new companies that are now emerging,” Moonves writes. “I can understand why you might want to preserve your dominance in that venue, but bullying us into becoming your accomplice in that effort doesn’t seem fair.”

He ends by requesting that Britt and TWC return to the negotiating table, “rather than engaging in public posturing that achieves nothing but confusion and doesn’t move us one bit closer to our mutual goal.”

“We will be there,” Moonves adds, “waiting and hopeful.”