News

Tribune Broadcasting Pulls the Plug on Millions of Consumers in the Largest TV Blackout this Year

Consumer Blackout Affects TV Viewers in 34 States and D.C.
ATVA Urges FCC to Act to Protect Consumers from Further Harm   

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to protect consumers from a massive consumer blackout affecting millions of DISH customers from coast-to-coast.  On Sunday evening, Tribune Broadcasting Company rejected a proposal that would have kept local channels up for consumers.  Instead Tribune chose to pull the plug on 42 local channels for pay-TV consumers in 34 states and the District of Columbia.  

ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy commented on the largest consumer TV blackout this year:     

“Tribune Broadcasting is holding the NBA Finals, the Tony Awards, the Stanley Cup Final and scores of other popular programs for ransom in a brazen attempt to get consumers to pay more money for channels that are available for free over the air.  

“Tribune Broadcasting Company is depriving hundreds of thousands of families of some of the biggest and most anticipated events of the year.  Musical fans will miss Broadway’s biggest night; hockey fans will be in the dark; and kids and NBA fans across America won’t be able to watch LeBron James play Steph Curry.    

“There is only one party responsible for this blackout and that is the Tribune Broadcasting Company.  Tribune alone has the power to restore its signal and stop hurting consumers.  This massive consumer blackout – the largest blackout this year – is more compelling evidence of why the FCC must act on retrans reform to protect innocent consumers.       

“Outdated laws allow broadcasters to fleece loyal TV viewers in a blackout shakedown: pay more or they yank your station off the air.  The FCC is currently examining these abusive broadcaster tactics and the Commission is poised to take strong action to protect consumers.

“We urge the Commission to act swiftly on ATVA’s retrans reform proposals – to prevent forced bundling and blackouts immediately before marquee events – and protect fans and loyal TV viewers from further harm.”

Nationwide, broadcasters pulled the plug on American consumers 193 times in 2015, a new single-calendar year record.  Network takedowns have surged over the past five years; in 2010 there were only eight black outs across the country.   TV Blackouts affected 12 million American homes – one of every eight pay TV subscribers – in 2015.    

  • 62 Blackouts to date 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

###

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.

 

 

 

TV Blackouts Driving Record Retrans Fees

Retrans, Reverse Compensation at CBS to Exceed $1 Billion in 2016

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today reacted to a recent report in USA TODAY that CBS revenue is up 20 percent during the first quarter of 2016, largely because of the retrans fees it charges pay-TV providers to broadcast its signal.  According to TV News Check, an industry trade publication, CBS will top $1 billion in retrans fees and reverse compensation in 2016. 

ATVA spokesman Michael Hacker commented on the CBS earnings report:

“Each broadcasters’ quarterly earnings report is further confirmation that the retrans cash grab is driving the TV blackout crisis.  Last year, broadcasters pulled the plug on pay-TV viewers 193 times, a new single-calendar year record.  Now yet another broadcaster announces record earnings powered by higher retrans fees; it is easy to do the math.    

For many months, the FCC has been working to update its rules to protect consumers from the menace of TV blackouts.  The time for study is over; it is time for the Commission to take decisive action to protect the public interest and stop the harm caused by the blackout crisis.” 

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

ICYMI: “Free” TV Keeps Getting More Expensive

CBS Retrans, Reverse Compensation to Exceed 2.5 billion
$500 Million Increase in Projections

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today reacted to a recent report in Multichannel News that CBS expects the broadcaster to generate “$2.5 billion in retransmission consent and reverse compensation revenue by 2020, a $500 million increase from its previous forecasts.”

ATVA spokesman Michael Hacker commented on CBS’s stunning announcement:

“The retrans revenue grab is driving the blackout crisis and pushing up pay TV customers’ bills.  Despite a record number of TV blackouts in 2015 and an ongoing FCC investigation into broadcaster abuses, CBS executives continue to gorge themselves at the retrans trough.  Retrans fees are increasing at an unsustainable rate – 40 percent increases each of the last three years.  This trend will continue and consumers will continue to pay the price until Congress fixes our broken video laws that rig the game in the favor of big broadcasters.” 

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

 

 

 

ICYMI: “Free” TV Keeps Getting More Expensive

“Retrans Gravy Train Keeps Rolling”

Retrans Revenue up 84 Percent for Gray Television; up 40 percent for Nexstar Broadcasting

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today reacted to earnings announcements from two major broadcast ownership groups, Gray Television and Nexstar Broadcasting Group, which each announced massive retransmission consents revenue increases: 

“[Gray’s] retransmission consent revenue increased $18.0 million, or 84%, to $39.5 million from 2014 to 2015,” [TV News Check, 2/26/16].
[Nexstar’s] retransmission consent income grew 40% [TV News Check 2/26/16].

ATVA spokesman Michael Hacker commented on the massive increases in retrans fees: 

“The retrans gravy train keeps rolling for the broadcast industry as they continue to charge more and more for broadcast signals that are “free” over the air.  Congress has a duty to fix our broken video laws that rig the game in the favor of the big special interests at the expense of American consumers.  We are glad that it took the first step of directing the FCC to examine “good faith” negotiating rules, and the brass knuckle tactics used by broadcasters to extort consumers.  But that is not enough:  Congress cannot allow broadcasters to use viewers as pawns while they line their pockets with outrageous TV fees.”

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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 Chief Says Record Year for Blackouts Shows Consumers are Winning???

“It’s no wonder Mr. Moonves is trying to create a distraction after one of his affiliates just threatened to blackout the Super Bowl”

 Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance today responded to the outrageous comments made by CBS Chief Les Moonves to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a recent Ex Parte Filing.  According to Broadcasting & Cable, Mr. Moonves said “the consumer is the winner” for the first time since the 1992 Cable Act was passed despite broadcasters pulling the plug on one out of every eight consumers in 2015, a record year for blackouts. “It’s no wonder Mr. Moonves is trying to create a distraction after one of his affiliates just threatened to blackout the Super Bowl” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “It’s apparent that broadcasters see the writing on the wall as their years of bilking consumers for more cash are finally coming to an end.  Regardless of what the NAB or any of its allies want you to believe, the system is stacked against consumers and that’s why Congress directed the FCC to investigate the years of broadcaster abuse.” Mr. Moonves also claimed that MVPD’s are finally getting a taste of “the rough and tumble of the marketplace” despite the fact that broadcasters have the ultimate leverage when it comes to pulling a signal during retrans negotiations. “The truth of the matter is that the marketplace is currently failing consumers,” said Duffy.  “The billions of dollars in free spectrum broadcasters receive each year from the government means they have a responsibility to serve the public interest.  Pulling the plug on consumers ahead of the Super Bowl is hardly in the public’s interest.”

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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 Urges FCC to “Save the Super Bowl” for Las Vegas

Broadcaster Blackout Will Prevent Tens of Thousands in Vegas from Watching the Biggest Sporting Event of the Year  

 Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to protect consumers from a broadcaster-initiated blackout that threatens to deprive tens of thousands of Las Vegas residents from watching the Super Bowl.  Nexstar Broadcasting blacked out the Las Vegas CBS affiliate for Cox’s Cable subscribers this week.

“Let’s call this for what it is – a shameless shakedown,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Tens of thousands of Las Vegas households are at risk of missing the biggest sporting event of the year.  The FCC must act to save the Super Bowl for Las Vegas.” ATVA’s letter urged the FCC to protect consumers from the menace of broadcaster blackouts by acting on its recommendations immediately:

“Nexstar’s threat to black out the Super Bowl should give the Commission pause.  And its cavalier treatment of Cox’s viewers—who should be considered the “third-party beneficiaries” of the parties’ negotiations—demonstrates once again why reform is needed now.  ATVA has proposed several solutions that would address the kind of behavior, including one that would directly prohibit blackouts prior to “marquee events” such as the Super Bowl.  We urge the Commission to act on these proposals immediately, so as to prevent this kind of behavior from happening again.”

“Broadcasters have a long history of using marquee events to extract higher fees, but this is a new low.  To hold hostage one of the most culturally significant events of the year is the most egregious example of bad faith that we’ve ever seen,” said Duffy. Read the full text of ATVA’s letter to the FCC here.

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

Consumers Blacked Out by Broadcaster in Nine Markets Including Las Vegas on Eve of Super Bowl

Signal Takedown Could Impact Tens of Thousands of Subscribers

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance today condemned Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting for its brazen blackout of consumers in nine markets, including the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, less than one week before the Super Bowl.  Nexstar’s blackout could prevent tens of thousands of Cox customers from viewing the Big Game. “Here we go again…. Two weeks ago broadcasters blacked out the NFC Championship game in South Florida, this week they’re using the Super Bowl to hold consumers hostage in Las Vegas and we wouldn’t be surprised if the Oscars are threatened later this month,” said Trent Duffy ATVA national spokesman.   “Broadcasters have a long history of using marquee events to extract higher fees and it will continue unless the laws are changed to protect consumers.” “This most recent consumer blackout is happening during an ongoing investigation by federal regulators into the blackout crisis and broadcaster tactics that hurt consumers.  While the FCC probe is an important step, it is ultimately Congress’ job to fix this problem,” said Duffy.

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

North Carolina TV Blackout Averted That Would Have Deprived Thousands of Loyal Fans of NFL Playoffs

 Blackout Avoided in NC as Agreement Reached and Signal Returned TV Blackouts of NFL Playoffs Still Threaten Viewers in Miami, FL

Washington, D.C. – Just days before a significant television blackout threatened to deprive tens of thousands of DIRECTV subscribers in Raleigh, Wilmington and surrounding areas – including troops stationed at Fort Bragg and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base —  from watching both the NFC and AFC Championship Games, Capitol Broadcasting restored WRAZ-FOX and WRAL-CBS (soon to be NBC) signals.  An agreement between the parties was reached late Wednesday evening. In 2015, TV blackouts caused by broadcasters soared to a record level of 193 and affected 12 million Americans.  The U.S. Congress has not updated the laws governing video distribution in a meaningful way since 1992, which is a major driver of the blackout crisis.  Blackouts occur when broadcasters either pull or de-authorize television distributors from providing their signals during contract negotiations where a broadcaster seeks increasingly higher payments for programming. Had Capitol Broadcasting’s TV blackout persisted, it could have affected thousands of North Carolinians in Raleigh planning to watch the hometown Carolina Panthers play the Arizona Cardinals for a trip to Super Bowl 50.  It could have also affected tens of thousands of fans in both Raleigh and Wilmington eager to watch the AFC Championship Game between the 2015 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots and 2014 AFC Champion Denver Broncos on CBS. Despite the progress in North Carolina, a similar TV blackout continues for fans in Miami, FL. “The good news is this blackout was averted.  The bad news is that the broadcaster playbook of blacking out consumers to extract huge fee increases is only getting worse.  And until and unless the FCC and Congress fix this problem, more Americans are going to experience the same treatment as the thousands of North Carolinians who until today were trying to figure out where they could watch these great games,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman. These broadcaster tactics are on display even as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at Congress’ direction, investigates such practices and weighs changes to protect consumers. “Whether it’s live sports or other marquee events like the Oscars or Emmys, the sad truth is that broadcasters use the anticipation and excitement as a vise to squeeze all the money they can.  The  blackouts in North Carolina and Florida happened during an on-going investigation by federal regulators into broadcaster tactics that hurt consumers.  While the FCC inquiry is an important step, it is ultimately Congress’ job to fix this problem,” said Duffy. The Carolina Panthers sold out Bank of America Stadium in less than three minutes following last Saturday’s victory, meaning most local fans will be watching on TV.  In addition to affecting fans and U.S. troops stationed in the area, Capitol Broadcasting Co.’ blackout would likely have had a significant negative economic impact on bars and restaurants in and around Raleigh and Wilmington, since they rely on marquee sporting events to attract customers.

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 17 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

Early 2016 Retransmission Consent Blackouts More than Double the Entire 2010 Tally in Few Weeks

Sunbeam Television Adds to Surging Blackout Count, Once Again Using NFC Playoff Games to Force  Miami Consumers into the Middle

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance today responded to Sunbeam Television’s brazen decision to blackout Miami FOX affiliate WSVN from AT&T U-verse customers starting Saturday, Jan. 16 after prohibiting Miami’s DIRECTV consumers from seeing the same Divisional round games during the annual NFL postseason tournament in mid-January 2012. Sunbeam’s takedown marks the 17th time already this year that broadcasters have pulled the plug on consumers after doing the same a record high of 193 times in 2015.  As recently as 2010, there were only eight blackouts on record, yet the early pace in 2016 has more than  doubled that year-long tally in less than a few weeks. These broadcaster-initiated blackouts of hundreds of thousands of consumers in 2016, and millions more in 2015, come amid the Federal Communications Commission’s ongoing investigation into broadcaster tactics. U-verse consumers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa also recently endured a brief blackout (Jan. 6-7) when Griffin Communications stopped viewers in the Oklahoma state capital and second-largest city from receiving two CBS affiliates (and other stations) just as the annual NFL playoffs were getting underway. “Broadcasters are picking up right where they left off in 2015, pulling the plug on consumers nearly two times per day and holding their favorite shows and events for ransom,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy. “Outdated laws are enabling these broadcasters to sever decades-long team loyalties at their whim, bilk billions of dollars in arrogant self-entitlement at hard-working viewers’ expense, and frustrate the same public they’re specifically granted a license to serve. They reward loyalty with blackout shakedowns: ‘Pay more or we’ll yank your station from inside of your home. “A few years ago, Sunbeam Television blacked out hundreds of thousands of families in Miami and Boston for two weeks, denying them that season’s “American Idol” premiere, “Golden Globe Awards” and two NFC Divisional Playoff games in a failed attempt to triple rates,” Duffy said. “The community outrage prompted the involvement of Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, yet here were are, with the NFL playoffs midway done, and WSVN is perpetrating the same abuses on the Miami community once again. These brass-knuckle tactics where consumers bear the scars have no place in American media today.” Broadcasters pulled stations from American homes nearly 200 times in the past year, affecting more than 12 million different families.  No matter their cable, satellite or IPTV provider, most families could not escape, as the blackouts spanned nearly every major MVPD. In fact, over the course of the year, one out of every eight American families who subscribe to pay TV saw their loyalties rewarded with a station-orchestrated service interruption.

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 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:

  • 17 Blackouts to date 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.

###

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.

FCC Poised to Take Action to Protect Consumers from Blackouts

With consumer TV blackouts surging and retrans fees increasing at unsustainable rates, Congress recognized that the existing rules and regulations governing retransmission consent negotiations are not working.  In legislation passed at the end of 2014, Congress directed the FCC to commence a rulemaking to examine what constitutes “good faith” in retransmission consent negotiations.

ATVA filed its reply comments today, responding to the National Association of Broadcasters’ audacious suggestion that “the retransmission consent market has finally begun to work.”

The retrans system is working for broadcast executives, who are lining their pockets with unjust fees for free TV.  But for the more than 12 million American households – 1-in-8 Pay TV subscribers – that have been impacted by a TV blackout in 2015, the system is broken.

The cash grab for retrans dollars is driving the TV blackout epidemic.  Retrans fees have climbed 40 percent each of the past three years – costs that are ultimately borne by consumers.  At the same time, consumer blackouts have also spiked.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported today that “TV Viewers Endured Record Number of Blackouts in 2015.”  Broadcasters pulled the plug on American consumers 193 times in 2015, a new single-calendar year record.

Indeed, In the 45 days since initial comments on the rulemaking were due, broadcasters blacked out their signal 17 more times.  So far in 2016, broadcasters have pulled the plug on consumers in 14 markets, holding programming like NFL playoff games and the Golden Globe Awards hostage.  Unfortunately, this is business as usual for broadcasters.

In the reply comments, more than 3,300 consumers affected by broadcaster blackouts voiced their opinions to the FCC.  Below are a few examples of what outraged viewers are saying:

  • “I am afraid as right now I have no local news. What if there is a real security issue for the nation or my local area?  I will not know.  This leaves me very vulnerable. I am shocked this is happening in our great USA.”
  • “We pay for free TV stations on a monthly basis therefore why do they have the option to blackout stations that are on air for free if you don’t subscribe to a cable or satellite provider. ARE WE BEING HELD HOSTAGE FOR SUBSCRIBING TO CABLE/SATELLITE PROVIDERS. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE ELECTION DEBATES ARE HELD AND WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO FOLLOW CANDIATES.”[sic]
  • “Forget about losing our favorite television stations. The consumer is being blocked from local news, for which there is no excuse. Should a local emergency arise, blocking local channels could result in bodily harm and property damage which would lead to litigation and rightfully so. This simply has to stop. There IS an obligation to the consumer. It is a right and not a privilege to view my local stations, particularly when I am paying for it.”
  • “I work hard for my money and pay my bill to the satellite company so my retired dad can watch his favorite shows during the day, and I can come home in the evening and enjoy some favorite programs myself, including Wheel of Fortune and NCIS. Thanks to some broken down communications over which I had no control, we can no longer watch these and many other programs shown on our local channel 11 (CBS). It is not right for the consumer to be harmed due to the greed of large companies playing hardball with their contracts. Please fix these issues so we can get back to enjoying the programs we want.”

The Congress gave the FCC new, specific authority to address retransmission consent abuse.  ATVA is confident that after the FCC completes its thorough examination of the video marketplace, it will agree with our conclusions: the retransmission consent system is broken and the FCC can and should take concrete, decisive steps to fix the situation and protect innocent consumers.