Broadcasters Shatter TV Blackout Record in 2017

More than Twice as Many Blackouts in 2017 – 107% Increase from 2016
213 Blackouts in a Single Year Sets New Station Takedown Record
Broadcasters Pocket $9.3 Billion for ‘Free’ TV

Washington, D.C.  Broadcasters shattered the record for the most TV blackouts in a single calendar year in 2017, intentionally taking down signals from cable and satellite customers a staggering 213 times last year.  Consumers were blacked out twice as many times in 2017 as they were in 2016 – a 107 percent increase year over year.

“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.  The situation will continue to deteriorate for pay TV customers until Congress and the FCC takes action to protect consumers.”

The record number of TV blackouts deprived tens of millions of Americans of network programming, local news and weather, and live sporting events.  Broadcasters pocketed $9.3 billion in 2017 from pay TV customers for ‘free’ TV, according to industry analyst SNL Kagan.  Network takedowns have surged in the last decade as broadcasters have used blackouts of marquee programming as “deal leverage” to extract higher and higher fees from consumers.  There were only eight TV black outs nationwide in 2010.

Throughout 2017, broadcasters blacked out big events including the Super Bowl, award shows, college football bowl games, NFL Playoffs, March Madness, network premieres, and other highly anticipated events.  Live professional and college football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to an analysis by ATVA.

CBS recently used the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Holiday Specials and NFL Football as deal leverage in a massive blackout affecting millions of DISH Network customers in 18 markets across 26 states.  CBS will generate more $1 billion from retrans fees in 2017 and claims to be on track to increase that number to $2.5 billion by 2020.  Industry analysts continue to increase projections for broadcast retransmission fees, estimating the cost to U.S. consumers and satellite and cable operators would hit $12.8 billion by 2023.  ATVA has asked the FCC to ban broadcasters’ use of marquee programming as leverage during retrans negotiations.

“Cable and satellite TV subscribers already pay too much for programming that is available for free over the air,” said Duffy.  “The record number of broadcaster blackouts in 2017 is an urgent call to action.  Congress must reform outdated and broken video law, and the FCC must protect consumers from broadcaster abuse and skyrocketing retrans fees.”

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

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 800 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 213 blackouts in 2017 (A New Record Number)
  • 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 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 even more troubling, they 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.