ATVA: TV Stations Shattered Retrans Blackout Record In 2017

In a press release, the American Television Alliance, whose members include satellite operators and the American Cable Association, said that broadcasters had “shattered” the record for retrans related blackouts, with more than twice as many (213) as in 2016. “Broadcasters pulled the plug on American consumers a record 213 times last year, blacking out millions of pay TV subscribers across the country,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy. “Broadcaster blackouts roared back in 2017 after the FCC suspended its investigation of abusive broadcast industry tactics. Broadcasters have weaponized TV blackouts, deliberately targeting live sports and other must-see TV to inflict maximum pain on innocent consumers.”

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Comcast CFO: NBC’s retransmission growth should match CBS’s trajectory

Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh sees continued growth for retransmission consent revenue at NBCUniversal and thinks the company will follow the same growth trajectory laid out by CBS.

Speaking at UBS investors’ conference, Cavanagh said NBC pulled in $850 million in retrans revenues in 2016 and will take in $1.4 billion this year.

“And there is no reason why we wouldn’t track the trajectory of what CBS has talked about of continued steady growth there. So I think total TV, affiliate fees, stable growth, stable advertising and retrans growth against all the investments and the focus on the quality of the product, I think leaves us feeling good about our TV business,” said Cavanagh according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

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Dish, Lilly Strike Retrans Deal

Dish has struck a retrans deal with Lilly Broadcasting, resolving an impasse dating from September.

The multiyear deal covers TV stations in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as in Pennsylvania, New York and Hawaii.

Signals had been restored in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands given the storms there and after FCC chairman Ajit Pai expressed his concern about the impact’s effects.

Lilly TV stations went dark on Dish as of 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, after the previous contract expired.

Lilly stations coming off Dish included WSEEP-TV Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (CBS) (one Caribbean TV); WENY-VI U.S. Virgin Islands (ABC); WSEE-TV Erie, N.Y. (ABC); KITV-TV Honolulu (ABC); and KITV2-TV Honolulu (MeTV).

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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?’”

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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.

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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.

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Knives Are Out for Sinclair-Tribune Deal

PBS NewsHour devoted a segment this week to the merger, saying the merger was raising concerns “because of Sinclair’s policy of combining news with partisan political opinion.”

It was clear where PBS was coming from given the headline: “How Sinclair broadcasting puts a partisan tilt on trusted local news,” and from the fact that a link to the broadcast was circulated by the Coalition to Save Local Media with the headline: “PBS NewsHour Sounds the Alarm on Sinclair Tribune.”

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After ESPN deal, Connecticut Optimum customers to pay more

In a notification to the Connecticut regulators, Altice stated the changes are the result of “escalating fees charged by sports networks and broadcasters” without singling out by name Disney or its Bristol-based subsidiary ESPN. Hearst Connecticut Media parent Hearst Corp. holds a 20 percent ownership share in the sports giant.

Hal Levy, who chairs a local consumer advisory council for Altice’s territory extending from Greenwich to Westport and north to Redding and Easton, noted Connecticut has not regulated Optimum programming or fees since 2008 when prior operator Cablevision surrendered its cable TV franchise for a Certificate of Video Franchise Authority.

“These are now entirely business decisions,” Levy said. “The company, as well as the entire video services industry, has been citing increases in (broadcast) TV fees and sports carriage fees as major drivers of increased programming costs.”

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ACA Launches “TV Ransom” Campaign Ahead of Retrans Battles

The American Cable Association hopes to bring attention to tactics used by broadcasters in retransmission consent negotiations that it considers objectionable with a PR effort launched Wednesday. The campaign, dubbed “TV Ransom,” will utilize social media, op-eds and media outreach to get out in front of the myriad operator-broadcaster disputes, potential blackouts and result rate increases the ACA anticipates this retrans season. The group is also providing member operators with information it can distribute to customers.

“We’re letting everybody know that our members are expecting a horrible time in their retransmission consent negotiations,” said ACA President & CEO Matthew Polka. “Those negotiations, because of market consolidation and regulatory advantage, are going to be very difficult for their customers, and we’re going to be calling out what’s taking place in the market to harm consumers all across America.”

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ACA Launches Retrans Campaign Blaming Broadcasters

Hurricane season may be—thankfully—winding down, but retrans renewal season is just around the corner and the American Cable Association is referencing both in launching a new “TV Ransom” national campaign to put the blame squarely on broadcasters for TV station blackouts and escalating fees.

“Across the country hundreds of local cable operators are beginning to negotiate with a handful of corporate media conglomerates that own many of the local TV station affiliates for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC,” said ACA. “”Retransmission consent should be a straight-forward business negotiation, but, unfortunately, these corporate broadcasters abuse their market power to extract outrageous fees from cable customers,” ACA President Matt Polka said of the campaign’s launch.

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Retrans: ‘Anti-Competitive,’ Regressive

The Cable Act of 1992 was a mixed bag. Its program access provision gave satellite TV a big boost by giving operators the ability to distribute the most popular cable networks. But the retrans provision have proved to be anticompetitive and “a complete, absolute disaster for consumers.”

This Thursday will mark the 25th anniversary of passage of a law by Congress that undeniably helped the development of the satellite TV industry, while equally being one of the most regressive, anti-competitive consumer pieces of legislation ever enacted for television viewers to all video services in every quarter of the nation.

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Dish: Lilly Stations off Satellite Service

DISH says that Lilly Broadcasting has pulled its TV station signals from the satellite service, including in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island after the two failed to come to terms on a new carriage contract.

Their contract expired at 7 p.m. ET Saturday (Sept. 30).

Lilly stations coming off Dish were WSEEP-TV Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (CBS); WENY-VI U.S. Virgin Islands (ABC)WSEE-TV Erie, N.Y. (ABC); KITV-TV Honolulu (ABC; KITV2-TV Honolulu (MeTV)

R. Stanton Dodge used the impasse to argue for the FCC getting involved. “Lilly’s decision to cut ties with DISH customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts,” he said.

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Altice outs Disney’s ‘dark secret’ in TV ad: ‘It owns ESPN!’

September 27, 2017

With their carriage deal set to expire and the two sides seemingly far apart on renewal terms, Altice USA has stayed on the rhetorical offensive against Disney with a new TV ad.

“Disney is desperate to make up for ESPN’s crumbling business,” the narration claims. “Their solution: Force Optimum and its customers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more than we are currently paying to continue carrying ESPN, The Disney Channel and ABC.”

As Altice works to renew the broad-reach carriage deal with Disney originally established by New York-area cable company it purchased last year, Cablevision, ESPN and its satellite channels have become major stumbling blocks.

In its ad, Altice says Disney has a “dark secret: It owns ESPN!” The cable operator then accuses Disney of overpaying the NFL, NBA and other sports leagues for sports rights, then trying to pass along the pain.

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Broadcasters are doing the blacking out

September 27, 2017

As it fights retrans battles on multiple fronts, AT&T wants to set the record straight on American Spirit Media’s assertion that the operator was the one who blacked out its seven network affiliates on DirecTV and U-verse.

“We want to get our customers’ usual local stations back into their DirecTV and U-verse lineups as soon as possible,” AT&T said. “Doing so requires permission from each station’s owner, including American Spirit Media., since FCC rules grant American Spirit exclusive control over whether its stations remain available on either DirecTV or U-verse. We share our customers’ frustration because American Spirit is deliberately stopping its stations from reaching their homes until American Spirit receives a significant increase in fees even though the same people can still watch its shows for free over the air and, often, online at each network’s website or using that same network’s mobile app.”

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If Disney Doesn’t Get its Way, You Might Lose ABC and ESPN Programming By Next Week

September 24, 2017

If they are unable to reach a deal before the end of the month, Disney has announced that it will pull its programming from the cable distributor. Meanwhile, Altice said Disney had asked it for “hundreds of millions of dollars” in new fees to continue carrying ESPN and ABC despite a drop in ratings, according to Reuters.

Altice, which is better known as Optimum, is the nation’s fourth-largest cable distributor with more than four million subscribers, many of whom live in the tri-state area and parts of Pennsylvania. Subscribers reportedly began seeing scrolling messages on their TV screens on Friday night warning them that they may lose ABC programming.

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Retrans Fees Driving Cable Prices Higher

September 20, 2017

With Sinclair and Tribune, Comcast EVP David Cohen said the same before acknowledging that there’s some good and some bad for his company – and consumers – in that broadcasting merger.

“I think having that large a bloc of local broadcast affiliates, it almost inevitably [will] put significant upward pressure on retransmission consent fees, which are the No. 1 driver of increases in cable prices for consumers these days,” Cohen said.

Those fees refer to the rates that cable operators pay broadcasters to carry their signals. And Cohen pointed to a number of “economic studies” filed at the FCC in recent weeks that “highlight the potential anti-consumer implications,” given the effect of higher rates on cable subscribers.

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Cable One dispute with North Dakota ABC affiliates moves to blackout

September 11, 2017

Cable One subscribers in North Dakota currently don’t have access to several local ABC affiliates amid a retransmission dispute with station operator Forum Communications.

Forum has put statements on the websites of ABC affiliates WDAY-TV in Fargo and WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks, informing viewers that its contract with Phoenix, Arizona-based Cable One expired on September 8.

“WDAY is still in negotiations with Cable ONE to resume bringing programming to you throughout this interruption,” the broadcaster’s statement read. “… Without a fair agreement we will not be able to provide the premier news, sports, entertainment, weather, traffic updates, political coverage and other local and national programming that is most important to you.”

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Two big reasons Sinclair-Tribune TV merger should be nixed, opponents say

August 8, 2017

The opposition to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s nearly $4 billion merger with Tribune Media Co., is fighting the deal with words and documents. The Hunt Valley, Md.-headquartered Sinclair’s acquisition, announced three months ago, could create a broadcasting powerhouse with more than 200 TV stations in 108 markets. Not all in the media and TV industry think such a deal should be approved by regulators. “We believe this merger as proposed is unlawful, not in the public interest and should be rejected,” said Matthew Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association Monday. The ACA represents about 750 smaller telecom/broadband/pay-TV providers in small and rural areas.

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Huge payday awaits Tribune Media execs after Sinclair merger

July 7, 2017

The corporate bosses of Sinclair Broadcast Group are claiming their acquisition of Chicago-based Tribune Media — creating a television juggernaut with 233 stations in 108 markets — isn’t just good for their company and their shareholders. They say it also will serve the public interest. But the people who’ll benefit most from the deal may be executives of Tribune Media.

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John Oliver hits Sinclair Broadcast Group for conservative bias

July 3, 2017

Comedian John Oliver is taking aim at Sinclair Broadcast Group, accusing the local television giant of conservative bias. His criticisms also come at a critical time for Sinclair, which is on the verge of a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media that would significantly consolidate local television networks.

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S&P Global: Solid Retrans Rev Through ’23

June 15, 2017

Retransmission consent fees will continue to grow steadily over the next several years with virtual MVPDs (v-MVPDs) — DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue and the like — becoming significant contributors to the TV station revenue stream, according to the latest projection from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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