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 “Outdated laws are enabling these broadcasters to sever decades-long team loyalties at their whim, bilk billions of dollars in arrogant self-entitlement at hard-working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.