Hearst TV Snubs College Hoops Fans in Louisville from Big Dance

Screens Still Dark Ahead of NCAA Basketball Tournament
Broadcasters Continue on Record Blackout Pace for 2017
Retrans Fees Charged by Broadcasters up to $7.2 Billion

Washington, D.C. – Hearst Television Inc. is preventing fans in the Louisville market from watching the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament featuring both the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats on CBS. The ongoing blackout initiated by Hearst TV is affecting 30 states and 26 markets, leaving millions of DISH Network customers without access to their local programming.  Louisville will play Jacksonville State at 2:45 PM EST and Kentucky will play Northern Kentucky at 9:40 PM EST on Friday, March 17.

“A selection committee of one is preventing fans in Louisville from enjoying the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Broadcasters are responsible for at least one blackout for every day President Donald Trump has been in office.  The Trump administration, the new FCC Chairman and Congress need to call a timeout and protect consumers from outrageous broadcaster blackouts,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

Hearst pulled its signal from DISH customers despite offers from DISH to retroactively ‘true-up’ for new rates, which would allow customers to continue to access their local broadcast channels while negotiations continue.

Broadcast retransmission fees will cost U.S. consumers and satellite and cable operators $10.6 billion by 2020, according to industry research firm SNL Kagan. That’s well ahead of the year before, when SNL projected retrans to hit $9.8 billion by 2020.

The record pace broadcasters are pulling their signals from consumers this year is alarming, totaling more than 125 blackouts – more in the first three months than all of 2016 – in 81 cities, and costing nearly 18 million families at least some temporary disruption.   This startling trend comes as SNL Kagan projects retrans fees collected by broadcasters to hit $7.2 billion in 2017.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a probe into the broadcast industry which lasted for much of 2016. While the FCC’s investigation was ongoing, broadcasters were on their very best behavior — after five years of increasing numbers of blackouts, TV takedowns eased slightly last year while broadcasters were under the FCC microscope.

During the past decade, record numbers of viewers have abandoned the once-dominant broadcast networks, leaving them approximately half the audience they used to attract, according to Nielsen Media Research data and leading industry research firm SNL Kagan.  As advertisers shift more of their own support elsewhere, broadcast station retransmission fees, the fastest rising portion of consumers’ pay TV bills, are up nearly 40 percent year-over-year in each one of the past four years.

“With plummeting ratings and shrinking advertising dollars, broadcasters are desperately searching for new revenue,” said Trent Duffy.  “Broadcasters are proudly exploiting the outdated video distribution system that incentivizes them to jack up fees as much as 200% or more to replace lost revenue from ads.  As CBS Chief Les Moonves said, blacking out viewers during retransmission negotiations provides the ‘ultimate leverage’ and ‘the sky’s the limit’ in retrans fees if we fail to change the current system.”

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 due to more than 750 broadcaster blackouts.  With 116 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • More than 125 blackouts to date 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 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.

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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.