As Football Season Kicks Off, TV Blackout Season Kicks Into High Gear

Football is #1 Live TV Event Blacked Out by Broadcasters Trying to Squeeze Consumers for More Retrans Fees, Says New Analysis

Dispatch Media Blacking Out Fans in Columbus and Indianapolis
Raycom Threatening Kickoff Blackout in 43 Cities

Washington, D.C. – Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to a new analysis released today by the American Television Alliance (ATVA).  Marquee football games are used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extort higher fees from consumers.

As the 2017 football season begins, two broadcasters had already pulled signals and another is threatening to do so in the coming days:

  • Dispatch Video pulled its CBS signal in Columbus, OH and NBC signal in Indianapolis, IN from DIRECTV and U-verse homes. Dispatch Video’s blackout will impact tonight’s opening game of the professional season; Saturday’s #15 Georgia at #24 Notre Dame primetime game; and Sunday night’s NBC primetime pro game in Indianapolis. It will also prevent Columbus homes from seeing Sunday afternoon’s Cleveland Browns opener as they typically do.
  • Raycom Media is threatening to remove 48 stations in 43 cities from DIRECTV customers’ homes, impacting millions of likely fans and thousands more local sports bars, restaurants and other small business owners.  Most top-ranked collegiate teams Raycom and other station owners might otherwise block represent major public universities that depend upon their state’s residents’ tax dollars, tuitions and other contributions to help support ongoing stadium and other facility upgrades.
  • Hearst Broadcasting pulled its signals in four markets, including the local NBC station in New Orleans, LA, but returned them before professional football’s season debut on Thursday night.

In 2016, broadcasters pulled the plug on post season professional football games and college football bowl games in more than 20 cities, leavings millions of fans without access to their favorite teams.

“Football fans should get ready for another blackout blitz this year.  The September kickoff of college and pro football also marks the start of primetime blackout season – a sad but predictable trend.  Each year, football fans are used as pawns by big broadcasters to pad their wallets; this year we expect broadcasters to be even more aggressive as they stick it to fans to make up for shrinking advertising dollars,” said Trent Duffy, spokesman for ATVA.

Live sporting events like football are regularly used by broadcasters to extract higher fees that are ultimately borne by consumers.  According to the American Television Alliance’s blackout tracking data, instances of post-season football blackouts are on the rise over the last two years.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 on Pace to Break Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake In $$$$ from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 145 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • 151 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time that 60% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • Retrans fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and more troubling, have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter@ATVAlliance.