Every day, local cable operators work hard to ensure our communities have access to the video, broadband, and phone services you want. We offer advanced services to nearly 20 million homes and businesses, including in small towns and rural areas where the cost to serve is high and in urban areas as competition to larger operators.

We are your neighbors. We are your local small businesses. And we are your voice when it comes to negotiating deals with large corporate broadcasters. Our goal is to keep the connections – with you and the programming you love – by fighting on your behalf.

FIGHTING FOR YOU

WHAT WE FIGHT FOR

  • We negotiate hard with corporate broadcasters to keep fees low and programs on the air. While we don’t dictate fee increases, we must pay corporate broadcasters to carry their stations in your local TV lineups.
  • We want you to have access to all the programs you want and not be forced to offer you the programs you don’t want.

WHY WE FIGHT

  • We know you have many choices when it comes to watching TV content, and we strive to keep costs low to keep your business.
  • We are local. We are our own customers too. We live and work in your communities, and we are committed to serving you – our friends, families and neighbors.

THE FACTS

One of the more significant challenges comes from negotiating deals with corporate broadcasters for the rights to carry or “retransmit” broadcast signals of their stations (e.g., ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX) to our customers in local TV lineups.

We negotiate in good faith to ensure availability of affordable programming.

Our goal is to sign deals for the programming you want at reasonable monthly fees and to avoid a situation where corporate broadcasters remove popular programs to play hardball in negotiations. But what used to be an easy business transaction is no longer.

In the past, we had personal relationships with local broadcasters who lived in the community, developed over years of mutually-beneficial business interactions. But as the broadcast industry has gone corporate, local cable operators more often are forced to negotiate with regional and national entities whose owners and employees who live outside our community. This can make it harder to come to an agreement. Following are four of the corporate broadcasters that own nearly 40% of all local TV stations such as ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC across the country.

BROADCASTER ACQUISITION OF LOCAL TV STATIONS INCREASES

* Upon completion of Tribune acquisition.
Note: Counts include stations that are reported in each company’s SEC filing for each year ending Dec. 31, 2017 as being owned, operated or provided with programming and/ or sales and other services. Low-power and satellite stations are excluded.
Source: PEW RESEARCH CENTER, individual media company annual reports, SEC filings and media reports.

These large corporate broadcasters use their size and market power to extract increasingly high fees for their programming and force us to carry unwanted programs.Corporate broadcasters generally extract the most from the smallest operators and their customers, and their demands are higher year after year.

Corporate broadcasters demand higher fees even though their audiences are shrinking. Corporate broadcasters make up for lost advertising revenue by charging local operators and their customers more. It costs the same for corporate broadcasters to deliver their signal regardless of the local operator’s size, but they charge smaller operators higher prices.

BROADCAST RETRANSMISSION FEE REVENUE EXPECTED TO GROW

Source: Nielsen & SNL Kagan

All of this leads to increased costs for customers.

BROADCAST RETRANSMISSION FEES WILL COST U.S. CONSUMERS

Source: SNL Kagan as of June 2016

Sometimes during negotiations, corporate broadcasters and local cable operators can’t come to an agreement, especially when corporate broadcasters are looking to maximize their income from local cable operators and local cable operators are seeking to keep costs down for our customers.

When disputes occur, corporate broadcasters will often take big TV programs off the air to negotiate deals in their favor. They withhold programming during big television events such as the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four, the Olympics and the Oscars to secure a deal that extracts the highest fees from local cable operators.

Corporate broadcasters have also pulled their signals before and during periods of emergencies. When this happens, consumers lose. Unfortunately, this is happening more and more.

2017 TV STATION BLACKOUTS

In 2017, there have been 145 blackouts so far, affecting TV viewers in nearly 100 markets, with the longest blackout lasting 64 days.

CUSTOMERS SUFFERED

145

BLACKOUTS

THE LONGEST LASTING

64

DAYS

Source: ATVA as of April 25, 2017

Corporate broadcasters not only blackout large operators, but also smaller ones. Viewers in cities like Madison, Wisconsin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio have experienced blackouts of 10 days or more already this year. Corporate broadcasters who serve hundreds of communities across the country can be indifferent to consumers in one community losing service, but for the local cable operator and their customers, the impact can be significant.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the retransmission consent negotiations?

A decades-old federal law empowers broadcasters, including corporations that own TV stations such as ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, to charge fees to local cable operators for the right to carry or “retransmit” their signals.

Isn’t programming from my broadcasters free?

Yes and No. While broadcasters offer their signals for free over the air, cable operators can’t offer these signals to our cable customers without their permission. We need to pay fees to the broadcasters to get that permission. Most customers don’t realize they are paying fees for what most consider “free TV” such as national network shows like The Big Bang Theory and NFL games.

Why are broadcast TV fees going up?

Local cable operators strive to keep prices as low as possible. But we don’t control how much we are all forced to pay to carry local TV stations. Unfortunately, large corporate broadcasters are charging increasingly higher fees every few years to make up for lost advertising revenue due to fewer consumers watching their programming. We try to absorb as many of the costs as possible, but a portion of them is included in your bill because of the significant rise in the cost of these fees and other factors over the years. In fact, these TV station fees have grown thirty times over the last decade.

Why don’t cable companies just pay the broadcasters what they want?

Every day, local cable operators work on behalf of their customers to ensure their communities have access to the TV stations they want, when and how they want them. Because consumers have many provider choices for pay TV, local cable companies strive to offer their customers the best service at the lowest possible cost. However, when large corporate broadcasters demand higher fees, local cable operators are forced to pass along some of those costs to their customers. We fight on behalf of our customers to try to negotiate the best deal possible, but these broadcasters have dominant bargaining leverage in these negotiations to extract increasingly higher fees.

Why is my favorite TV station blacked out? Who is to blame?

Local cable companies negotiate in good faith with corporate broadcasters to ensure continued availability of affordable programming. Our goal is to sign deals to carry the TV stations you want at a reasonable price. During negotiations, we offer to keep the broadcasters’ stations on the air, but sometimes they will remove these stations to negotiate deals in their favor. Corporate broadcasters will withhold programming during big television events such as the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four, the Olympics and the Oscars to secure a deal that extracts the highest fees from local cable operators, and this is happening more often. So far in 2017, there have been 145 blackouts in 100 markets according to ATVA.

Could cable customers just switch to other providers, even satellite TV, to avoid blackouts?

All cable providers, regardless of their size, and satellite TV providers must negotiate retransmission consent fees with corporate broadcasters. Any of these negotiations could lead to TV stations going off the air. Industry research says that 80% of TV markets in the United States have experienced at least one local broadcast blackout. DISH Network and DirecTV subscribers have also experienced blackouts. Therefore, switching providers will not protect you from the threat of a blackout.

RESOURCES

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NEWS

Discovery CEO Zaslav tees off on retransmission fees and sports, pushes for entertainment-only bundle

Discovery CEO David Zaslav used his company’s third-quarter earnings call to offer a fairly extended analysis on how broadcast retransmission consent fees, especially for sports, are putting pressure on the U.S. pay TV industry.

Zaslav pointed out that the U.S. is the only broadcast television market that has retransmission consent, which he said is quite good for broadcasters but not so much for consumers and distributors that have to eat that cost. He also said it’s the only market where sports channels use their leverage to require full carriage of all their sports channels.

“Together with the fact that most sports channels are owned by the retrans broadcasters, you have a combustible combination,” said Zaslav, adding that the U.S. is also the only market with regional sports networks. “Sports has essentially been hyper-extended here to the point of ‘Are you serious?’”

Continue reading…

Dems Seek Own Sinclair Data Dump

Over four dozen Democratic House members have written Sinclair President Chris Ripley asking for answers to over a dozen questions related to the proposed Tribune merger and its impact on the public interest, as well as suggesting the company commit to not raising retrans fees for its newly acquired stations.

The letter, which was mailed Wednesday evening (Nov. 1), according to a Hill staffer, comes as the FCC is about to start its informal 180-day shot clock on the merger after pausing it to give the public more time to comment on Sinclair’s response to the FCCC’s second request for info on the deal.

Continue reading…

DIRECTV/AT&T: One Fee Fight Settled; 2 More Continue

AT&T has come to a new carriage agreement with Dispatch Broadcasting, returning two Dispatch-owned stations to the lineups of DIRECTV and U-verse TV after a five-week blackout.

Dispatch pulled the two stations — WTHR-TV (NBC affiliate in Indianapolis) and WBNS-TV (CBS affiliate in Columbus, Ohio) — from the two AT&T-owned TV services on September 6 when the old carriage pact expired.

But the companies announced they had reached a new agreement on Friday. The two sides were fighting over how much AT&T and DIRECTV should pay to carry the local channels. Terms of the new agreement were not revealed.

Continue reading…

ABOUT US

The American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of our customers and ensure they have access to robust, advanced TV services.