News

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.

###

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.

CBS Blacks Out Millions on DISH, Threatens Thanksgiving

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, L.A., Philly, San Fran and other Major Markets Left in the Dark
CBS Leverages Thanksgiving Day Parade, Holiday Specials and NFL Football

Washington, D.C. – The CBS Corporation today pulled the plug on millions of American families, unilaterally blacking out 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states for DISH subscribers.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, condemned CBS’s massive consumer blackout and demanded the broadcaster restore its signal to affected households.  ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy commented on CBS’s outrageous actions:

“Blacking out millions of American families just ahead of Thanksgiving is a new low.  This is a naked attempt by CBS to shake down families for more of their hard-earned money, as they sit down to enjoy turkey and watch football.  It is shameful and wrong.

CBS wears its billion-dollar retrans haul like a badge of honor, so it’s no surprise its executives in New York are willing to block the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Frosty the Snowman, and the annual Dallas Cowboys Turkey Day game to create leverage in an obvious cash-grab.

Cable and satellite TV subscribers already pay too much for programming available for free, over the air.  CBS’s appalling actions highlight ATVA’s longstanding call for Congress and the FCC to protect consumers from broadcaster blackouts and higher fees by reforming outdated and broken video laws.”

Contrary to what CBS would like the public to believe, cable and satellite providers cannot “drop” local stations.  CBS is solely responsible for this blackout, and CBS alone has the power to restore its signal and end this blackout before Thanksgiving.  CBS, as the owner of its content, can restore its programming for DISH customers at any time, even while negations are taking place.

Broadcasters have a long history of using TV blackouts as weapons to extract higher fees from consumers.  CBS is a repeat offender; the broadcaster orchestrated a month-long blackout of 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 2013.

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 212 blackouts already this year, 2017 is the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 212 blackouts in 2017 (and counting)
  • 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.

###

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.

ATVA Statement on New Broadcast TV Standards and Ownership Rules

Congress and the FCC Must Protect Consumers from Higher Fees and Broadcaster Blackouts

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, issued the following statement on today’s FCC actions on a new Broadcast Television Standard (ATSC 3.0) and the relaxation of media ownership rules.

“Today the FCC approved a new broadcast standard and loosened restrictions on media ownership.  While the orders include some measures to protect consumers, we are disappointed that the Commission did not do more in these proceedings to protect viewers from higher costs and more broadcaster blackouts.  We will continue to work with the FCC to ensure that, despite these changes, broadcasters negotiate the carriage of their signals in good faith,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

###

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.

 

 

 

 

Trust But Verify on New Broadcast Standard

Next week federal regulators at the FCC will consider a new broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0, the so-called “Next Gen” TV standard.   If implemented properly, the Next Gen transition could have some important benefits to consumers, including access to higher quality video, immersive sound and more efficient use of broadcast spectrum.  Technological innovation is a win for consumers, but new broadcast standards should not increase consumer costs or include new mandates on pay TV providers.

It’s been almost a decade since the transition to Digital HD broadcast signals.  But whereas the DTV received years of planning, intense media scrutiny and two separate acts of Congress to implement, the ATSC 3.0 transition is occurring largely unnoticed.  While the transition may improve broadcast service, it could also harm consumers if not managed properly.

In previous filings we asked the Commission to ensure two overriding policy objectives in regard to the Next Generation Broadcast transition: that the transition is completely voluntary for all participants, and that the new standard does not harm others in the television ecosystem by imposing new cost burdens on consumers and other participants.

Decisions impacting millions of American consumers require a ‘trust but verify’ approach.  We look forward to working with the Commission to ensure the new broadcast standards do not result in higher bills for consumers, more broadcaster initiated blackouts and other loss of service.

Broadcasters do not operate in a vacuum, and they do not have the right to impose new costs or burdens on consumers and other market participants.  ATVA has been working with the FCC on these important issues on behalf of all TV viewers.  We will continue to work with the Commission to protect consumers from harm during the transition.

Broadcasters can transition to ATSC 3.0 without causing any of these problems—but only if the FCC takes affirmative steps to protect consumers from harm.

Cable Act Turns 25 and the Verdict Is In: A Disaster for Consumers

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, on October 5th, the 1992 Cable Act turns 25 years old.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, commented on the occasion.

“For 25 years, cable, satellite and telco TV customers have paid more than $40 billion to the broadcast industry for something that was once free, broadcast TV.  The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage, or must carry; and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent.  Pay TV consumer have been paying the price ever since,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Today, broadcast TV fees are soaring, broadcasters blackouts are out of control and consumers are held hostage by a federal law written before the advent of HDTV, the Internet and smartphones.”

Broadcast retransmission fees are increasing at an astronomical rate, and will cost U.S. consumers $10.6 billion by 2020, and are expected to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, an 18 percent increase from 2016 levels, according to industry research firm SNL Kagan.

The retrans cash grab is fueling a television blackout crisis.  2017 is on pace to have the most blackouts ever in a single year.  Consumers have endured 179 blackouts so far in 2017.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, including the Final Four contests and the national championship game are among the marquee events broadcasters held for ransom, using blackouts to increase “deal leverage.”  Broadcasters also blacked out the Super Bowl, NFL and College Football post season games, the Grammys, and network TV premiers earlier this year.

When President George Bush vetoed the bill in fall of 1992 he warned, “the simple truth is that under this legislation cable television rates will go up, not down.”  Congress overrode the veto, the bill became law and President Bush’s prescient warning has become a painful reality for pay TV customers.

“Congress must take a hard look at the woefully outdated rules of the retransmission consent regime, which are directly responsible for skyrocketing fees and the record pace of blackouts that pay TV consumers experience year after year.  Furthermore, these troubling trends should erase any doubts about the necessity for strong FCC oversight during the proposed NextGenTV transition.”

###

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.

American Television Alliance Welcomes ACA Effort to Highlight “TV Ransom”

Small and Mid-sized Cable Operators to Spotlight Abusive Broadcaster Actions that Harm Consumers

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today welcomed the launch of the “TV Ransom” campaign, a new national education effort from the American Cable Association to highlight abusive broadcast industry behavior that harms consumers.  The launch of the TV Ransom campaign coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Cable Act, which ushered in the era of retransmission consent.

“We applaud the American Cable Association and its hundreds of members for stepping forward to highlight the rampant abuse of retransmission consent by the broadcast industry with the TV Ransom campaign,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman.  “The retrans cash grab is fueling a television blackout crisis.  Broadcasters take down their signals and hold their programming for ransom to extract outrageous fee increases that are borne by consumers.  Pay TV customers have endured 179 broadcaster blackouts so far in 2017, which have deliberately targeted some of the most anticipated television events of the year, from the Super Bowl to the Final Four to the Grammys.  Retrans fees are the fastest rising part of  consumers’ monthly pay TV bill.”

“The TV Ransom campaign will play a vital educational role for consumers, highlighting the fact that in a retransmission consent dispute, there is only one party responsible for a blackout: the broadcaster,” added Duffy.  “The broadcasters — and the broadcasters alone — have the power to remove their programming from a cable, satellite or telco television provider.  And the broadcasters alone have the power to restore their signals to the consumer.”

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 On Pace To Break Blackout Record

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 176 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • 179 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

###

Lilly Broadcasting Blacks Out CBS and ABC Stations in Storm Ravaged Puerto Rico and USVI Hampering Recovery Efforts

Broadcaster Puts Profits Before Public Safety
Lilly ignores its public interest obligations and exploits humanitarian catastrophe to create ‘deal leverage’

Washington, D.C. – With humanitarian crises unfolding in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lilly Broadcasting compounded the situation last night by removing its signals from DISH customers in the disaster zones.  The American Television Alliance today condemned Lilly Broadcasting for putting public safety at risk and profiteering from a natural disaster.  Lilly Broadcasting is solely responsible for this blackout and Lilly alone has the power to restore its signals to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Lilly Broadcasting is putting profits before public safety.  This television blackout demonstrates a blatant disregard for the obligations broadcasters have to the communities they serve,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “The American Television Alliance condemns this outrageous consumer blackout that jeopardizes public safety and hampers storm recovery efforts.  We demand that Lilly Broadcasting immediately end its outrageous consumer blackout and cease this profiteering during a humanitarian crisis.”

Lilly is blacking out the following stations from DISH customers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:

  • WSEEP-TV (CBS, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • WENY-VI (ABC, U.S. Virgin Islands)

###

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.

Baltimore Ravens Game Blacked Out on the Eastern Shore

“Retrans Man” Strikes Again; Pulls the Plug on 20,000 Fios Customers
Demands Consumers pay 170% Fee Increase
WBOC Fox/CBS Affiliates in Delmarva went Dark at the Stroke of Midnight

Washington, D.C. – Today’s Baltimore Raven’s game is being held hostage for thousands of fans on the Eastern shore of Maryland.  WBOC, the station owned by Draper Broadcasting, has taken down its signal for nearly 20,000 Verizon Fios customers, meaning loyal fans in the Delmarva area will not be able to see today’s highly anticipated Ravens-Steelers matchup.  Draper Broadcasting is solely responsible for this blackout, and it alone has the power to restore its signal.

The TV blackout strategy was masterminded by Duane Lammers, the self-described “Retrans Man,” whose company MAX Retrans advises broadcasters to blackout consumers to create “deal leverage” and extract higher fees during retransmission consent negotiations.  Lammers is advising Draper Broadcasting and demanding consumers pay 170% more than they are currently paying for WBOC programming.

Retrans fees are the fastest rising part of the pay TV subscribers’ monthly bill.  The Retrans Man’s notorious scorched Earth tactics include an ongoing blackout of the Fox affiliate in Sioux Falls, which has deprived South Dakota viewers of programming for nearly a year.

“Duane Lammers is the public face of higher Pay TV bills,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Outdated laws allow broadcasters and hired guns like the ‘Retrans Man’ to fleece loyal TV viewers and diehard sports fans by demanding outrageous fee increases.  TV blackouts are out of control because broadcasters are exploiting a loophole in the law that allows them to abuse TV viewers with no consequences.  The American Television Alliance calls on Draper Broadcasting to end its outrageous consumer blackout immediately.”

During an interview in early 2016, Lammers proclaimed “the name of the company says it all” before going on to describe his business model:

“The whole MAX Retrans business model is built around only getting paid for what I generate, so I’m not walking in the door with my hands in the pocket of the retrains pie from day one, I only get paid on the incremental revenue I generate.”

Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to a recent analysis by the American Television Alliance.  Marquee football games are used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extract higher fees from consumers.

“Each year, football fans are used as pawns by broadcasters to pad their wallets; this year broadcasters are being even more aggressive, using brass knuckle tactics and hired guns to stick it to fans to make up for shrinking advertising dollars.  Sadly, this abusive broadcaster behavior will continue until Congress and the FCC take action to protect innocent consumers from harm.”

 

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 162 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

 

  • 162 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.

###

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.

 

NAB Hypocrisy Watch: Broadcasters Tout Localism to Congress 1 Day after Blacking Out TV Viewers in Hurricane Irma’s Path

Doublespeak from Broadcaster Trade Group as Station-Owners put Profits before Public Safety

Washington, D.C. – The brazen hypocrisy of the National Association of Broadcasters was on full display for policymakers and consumers at the House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning as an NAB witness touted the organization’s commitment to serving the public during extreme weather events, one day after Hearst Television blacked out viewers in Orlando in New Orleans – two major cities in the path of Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic storm in history.

American Television Alliance Spokesman Trent Duffy reacted to the doublespeak from NAB:

“Actions speak louder than words.  The callous decision by Hearst Television to pull the plug on tens of thousands of TV viewers as the most dangerous storm in history looms is appalling.  Congress should know that NAB’s members are once again engaged in profiteering during a public safety emergency. The organization’s professed commitment to localism rings hallow when tens of thousands see a blank screen rather than critical news and information in the face of a hurricane.  Putting profits before public safety is reckless and wrong.  Lawmakers should hold Broadcasters accountable for their actions.”

###

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.

Hearst Television Blacks Out Orlando and New Orleans as Most Powerful Storm In History Approaches Coast

Broadcaster Puts Profits Before Public Safety
Tens of Thousands of COX Customers Left in the Dark as Hurricane Irma Draws Near

Washington, D.C. – With the strongest Atlantic storm in history barreling towards the southern United States, Hearst Television today took down its signal from residents in the storm’s path in Orlando, FL and New Orleans, LA.  The American Television Alliance (ATVA) condemned Hearst Television for threatening public safety amid a state of emergency and profiteering from a natural disaster.  This is the third time Hearst Television has blacked out consumers in Orlando and New Orleans this year.

“Hearst is putting profits before public safety.  This massive television blackout demonstrates a blatant disregard for the obligations broadcasters have to the local communities they serve,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “The American Television Alliance condemns this outrageous consumer blackout that jeopardizes public safety.  When the skies are clear we hear broadcasters tout their commitment to local communities, yet today, they are blacking out consumers during a time of emergency.  We demand that Hearst Television immediately end its blackout and restore its signals to all of its viewers affected by Hurricane Irma.”

###

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.