ATVA Condemns Bristlecone Broadcasting’s Blackout of Consumers of Fox Syracuse

Bristlecone and Northwest Broadcasting Put Verizon Fios and Cable One Customers in the Dark
ATVA Urges FCC to Protect Innocent Pay TV Consumers from Further Harm
50 Broadcaster Blackouts Five Days into 2017

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the pay TV customer, today condemned Bristlecone Broadcasting’s blackout of Verizon Fios consumers in Syracuse, NY. Bristlecone is a subsidiary of Northwest Broadcasting, which is currently blacking out Cable One customers in Mississippi and Idaho.  According to Syracuse.com, Fios is continuing to negotiate on behalf of consumers to reach a settlement to return Fox to its channel lineup.

ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy commented on the broadcaster’s blackout of consumers in New York, Mississippi, and Idaho:

“The American Television Alliance demands that Bristlecone Broadcasting immediately end its TV blackout of Fios and Cable One customers.  Rather than watching local news, sports and weather, consumers are seeing a black screen.  According to news reports, Bristlecone is asking Fios for 93 percent more than they are currently paying for programming that is free over the air.

“Even though the New Year is only five days old, Bristlecone’s station takedown is already the 49th TV blackout to hit consumers in 2017.  It is yet another example of why Congress and the FCC must take action to protect consumers and the TV-viewing public.”

The station takedown represents a familiar pattern for Bristlecone; in 2015 the broadcaster blacked out Fox Syracuse for Fios customers for nearly 5 days.  Bristlecone is a subsidiary of Northwest Broadcasting, which is currently blacking out its ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox stations in two Mississippi communities, and its Fox and NBC affiliates in Idaho Falls and Lewiston, Idaho.  The Bristlecone/Northwest broadcasting corporation frequently uses blackouts as “deal leverage.”

“These tactics raise questions about Bristlecone President Brian Brady’s independence and commitment to negotiating in good faith,” said Duffy.  “Although not well-publicized, Brady serves as an advisor to Layer3 TV, a Denver-based cable operator that will soon be a direct competitor to Fios in Boston and Washington, D.C.”

TV Blackout Crisis Continues as Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting more than 12 million Americans.  Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 600 broadcaster blackouts.  Blackouts have soared in the past five years.  ATVA began keeping track of broadcaster blackouts in 2010.  Since that time there have been:

  • 50 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 over 50%of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • According to an ATVA analysis of publicly available industry data and SNL Kagan data, 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.