Broadcasters Go Nuclear on Blackouts


Consumers Hit with More Blackouts in First Four Months of 2017 than All of 2016
NCAA Basketball Tournament, Super Bowl, Grammys, Network Premiers Among the Causalities as Broadcasters Go Nuclear   

Washington, D.C. – 2017 is on pace to have the most blackouts ever in a single year, as consumers have endured 142 blackouts so far in 2017, more in the first four months than in all of 2016.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, including last weekend’s Final Four contests and tonight’s national championship game are among the marquee events broadcasters are holding for ransom, using blackouts to leverage fee increases on pay-TV customers.  Broadcasters also blacked out the Super Bowl, NFL and College Football post season games, the Grammys, and network TV premiers earlier this year.

Broadcast retransmission fees are increasing at an astronomical rate, and will cost U.S. consumers and satellite and cable operators $10.6 billion by 2020, according to industry research firm SNL Kagan. Axios recently reported that “since 2010, broadcast and cable companies have raised retransmission rates more than 3700%, in an effort to make up for lost revenue from rising programming costs and declining ad revenues.”

“After being at war with consumers for the past 10 years, broadcasters have gone nuclear in 2017,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy. “There is no event that broadcasters aren’t willing to hold for ransom, telling consumers and fans to pay higher TV fees or you’ll miss the big game or marquee television event.  It’s a shameless shakedown that hurts fans and families.  Congress and the FCC should act to stop the blackout war on consumers.”

SJL Broadcasting recently pulled its signals from DIRECTV customers’ homes in three cities, including the local CBS stations in Corning, NY and Erie, PA that are broadcasting the NCAA Final Four Men’s National Semifinals basketball games this weekend. In another dispute, Hearst Television’s ongoing blackout of DISH Network has left fans without access to their local CBS channel in Louisville, KY and Des Moines, IA.  College basketball fans are currently without their local CBS programming in the following markets:

  • Anchorage, AK: Denali Media is blacking out DIRECTV customers
  • Juneau, AK: Denali Media is blacking out DIRECTV customers
  • Corning, NY: SJL Broadcasting is blacking out DIRECTV customers
  • Erie, PA: SJL Broadcasting is blacking out DIRECTV customers
  • Louisville, KY: Hearst Television is blacking out DISH Network customers
  • Des Moines, IA: Hearst Television is blacking out DISH Network customers

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Break Records As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting 12 million Americans.  Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 142 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • 142 blackouts to date in 2017 – smashing previous Q1 records
  • 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 50% 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.


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.