News

ATVA Puts Down Marker Against Potential Breach of Local Station Ownership Limits by Sinclair-Tribune Merger

Warns That Ownership of Multiple Stations in Top 4 Markets Would Stick Consumers with Higher Fees and More Blackouts

 Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing its concern that Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune would give Sinclair ownership of multiple top-four affiliates in numerous markets, in violation of the FCC’s local ownership rules.  ATVA supports adherence to the FCC’s media ownership rules and agrees with Sinclair that the Commission cannot grant its merger application at this time with respect to the duopolies created in markets like Seattle, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City.

“Retrans fees have risen by double digits year-over-year in each of the past four years, making retrans fees the fastest rising part of pay-TV customers’ bills.  Giving Sinclair a pass on local ownership limits in places like Seattle, St. Louis and Oklahoma City would all but guarantee more blackouts and higher prices for consumers in those markets,” said Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the coalition.”

Sinclair has indicated that it “may file amendments” to their merger application should the Commission relax local ownership rules.  In its filing, ATVA told the FCC that it would object to any subsequent attempts by Sinclair to authorize new ‘top-four duopolies’ unless the Commission also takes steps to limit the unreasonable pricing power that such duopolies would create.

ATVA’s filing summarized the concerns with duopolies: “Three years ago, the Commission voted unanimously to prohibit a single entity from negotiating on behalf of two top-four stations in a market because it harms competition and gives that broadcaster pricing power in retransmission consent negotiations.  All five Commissioners agreed this was sound policy because, when a single entity negotiates retransmission consent for two top-four stations, it can command fees between 20 and 43 percent higher than can a single top-four station.”

Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media are responsible for 139 blackouts combined since 2012, more blackouts than any single broadcaster in that timeframe.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, 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.

Broadcasters Jack Up Fees While Ratings Plummet

Pew Research Shows Nightly News Viewers Down 31% since 2007; Retrans fees rose 2,426% in same period

Washington, D.C. – Broadcasters continue to charge pay-TV subscribers ever-increasing fees for ‘free TV’ as the number of people watching local news has plummeted, concludes a new study by Pew Research on current trends in local television.  According to the analysis, in 2016, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning, early evening and late night, according to Pew’s analysis of Nielsen data. The report found that, “since 2007, the average audience for late night newscasts has declined 31%, while morning audience declined 12% and early evening audience fell 19%.”  In that same period, retrans fees increased 2,426% (no, that’s not a typo) rising from $314 million in 2007 to $7.933 billion in 2016.

“Broadcasters have perfected the art of how to make good money in bad faith,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Charging cable and satellite subscribers higher and higher fees to access broadcast stations with plunging viewership is an outrage.  In a free market, when demand for a product or service falls, so should the price.  In fact, there is an inverse relationship between viewership and price for broadcasters. Why? Because broadcasters use the threat of a station blackout to coerce payments of higher and higher fees.”

Retrans fees continue to skyrocket, and are expected to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, an 18 percent increase from 2016 levels, according to a recent market report from SNL Kagan.

The Pew study is another compelling reason why the FCC should review the ancient rules on retransmission consent, must carry, government-backed exclusivity and other broadcast industry giveaways.  These government advantages are directly responsible for skyrocketing fees and the record pace of station blackouts this year.

2017 is on pace to have the most TV blackouts ever in a single year.  Broadcasters have pulled the plug on consumers 145 times so far this year, leaving consumers in the dark for nearly every marquee television event this year, including: Super Bowl, NFL and College Football post season games, the Grammys, and network TV premiers earlier this year.  Absent reform from Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, consumers can expect to see more blank screens in the coming month as broadcasters continue to demand more in fees.

These troubling trends should erase any doubts about the necessity for strong Commission oversight during the proposed NextGenTV transition.

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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.

Big Broadcasters Extract Millions from Local Stations as Retrans Fees Soar

FCC Oversight of NextGenTV Transition Necessary to Protect Consumers  

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today responded to a new market report from SNL Kagan that retrans fees are expected to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, an 18 percent increase from 2016 levels.  The Big Four broadcast networks are taking about half of this enormous cash haul in the form of reverse compensation.  The report comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers the transition to NextGenTV, known as ATSC 3.0, and its potential impacts on consumers and retransmission consent.

“Retrans dollars meant to support local community broadcasters are being gobbled up by the Big Four broadcast networks,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman.  “This is precisely why the FCC must take a hard look at the ancient rules on retransmission consent, must carry, and government-backed exclusivity.  These giveaways to the broadcast industry are directly responsible for skyrocketing fees and the record pace of blackouts this year.  These troubling trends should erase any doubts about the necessity for strong Commission oversight during the proposed NextGenTV transition.”

ATVA recently filed reply comments on the “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard.  ATVA’s comments focused on the broadcast industry’s abandonment of its original requirement to simulcast 1.0 signals in their current format.  ATVA wrote that, “This change of heart greatly increases the risk of harm to over-the-air and MVPD viewers alike.”

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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.

ATVA Files Reply Comments on “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today filed reply comments on the “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard. ATVA’s comments focused on the broadcast industry’s abandonment of its original requirement to simulcast 1.0 signals in their current format. ATVA wrote that, “This change of heart greatly increases the risk of harm to over-the-air and MVPD viewers alike. It should also erase any doubts about the necessity for Commission oversight of the proposed transition.”

“The broadcast industry has pulled a classic bait and switch with the Commission and the American people,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman. “Broadcasters have walked away from their promise of a ‘voluntary’ transition, and their recent proposals threaten to strand who rely on broadcasters for news, information, and entertainment.

“ATVA’s comments emphasize our belief that the transition should be completely voluntary. Broadcasters do not operate in a vacuum, and they do not have the right to impose new costs or burdens on others. We have full confidence that in light of the backsliding from the broadcast industry, the Commission will protect Pay-tv and over-the-air consumers from harm.”

ATVA’s full comments to the FCC can be viewed here.

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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.

ATVA Files Comments on “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today filed comments on the “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard that is before the Federal Communications Commission.  The transition to the new broadcast standard will affect every American TV viewer, including the vast majority of Americans who receive their television signals from cable, satellite and IP television providers.  ATVA asked the Commission to ensure two overriding policy objectives:

  • that the transition is completely voluntary for all participants, and
  • the new standard does not harm others in the television ecosystem by imposing new cost burdens on consumers and other participants.

“The transition to a new broadcast standard will impact each and every American who watches television,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman.  “ATVA’s comments reflect our belief that the transition should be completely voluntary and do no harm to others.  We all support the concept of ‘permissionless innovation,’ but broadcasters do not operate in a vacuum, and they do not have the right to impose new costs or burdens on others.  We have full confidence that the Commission will proceed carefully, and fully consider the implications for everyone involved in the television ecosystem.”

ATVA’s full comments to the FCC can be viewed here.

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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.

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.

Statement of the American Television Alliance on ATSC 3.0 Rulemaking

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Communications Commission voted today to begin a rulemaking to examine the proposed transition of over-the-air television broadcast signals to a new standard known as ATSC 3.0.  The proposed transition to this new standard will have consequences for anyone who owns a television.  If implemented properly, ATSC 3.0 could bring consumers important benefits, such as access to higher quality 4K video, immersive sound, and more efficient spectrum usage.  Yet the transition also raises questions about costs, required new equipment, and the relationship between broadcasters and distributors.  The transition to ATSC 3.0 signals, moreover, promises to be costly and complicated, notwithstanding broadcaster claims to the contrary.

“We applaud the Commission’s balanced and deliberate NPRM.  We believe it will provide for a robust discussion of the critical issues and help ensure that the proposed transition benefits all broadcast television viewers regardless of whether they receive those signals over the air or from a pay TV provider,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

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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.

Are Broadcasters Willing to Flush Super Bowl Down the Toilet?

No Deal for Tens of Thousands of Fans on Eve of Super Bowl  

Washington, D.C. – Screens are still dark for tens of thousands of consumers in Sioux Falls, SD and Syracuse NY, putting consumers at risk of missing Super Bowl LI, scheduled to air on Fox on Sunday, February 5, 2017.   The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today urged local station owners to restore their signals immediately so American consumers are not forced to miss the most-watched television event of the year.

“We’re about to find out whether or not broadcasters are willing to flush the Super Bowl down the toilet for tens of thousands of fans.  We’ve demanded this shameful behavior come to an end, but Independent Communications and Bristlecone Broadcasting have shown they’re more interested in using the Super Bowl as leverage to raise their fees on consumers.  Regardless, the damage is already done,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

Consumers in the following states and markets are at risk of missing the Super Bowl this year unless broadcasters restore their signals:

  • Sioux Falls, SD – Independent Communications blacking out Mediacom
  • Syracuse, NY – Bristlecone Broadcasting blacking out Verizon Fios

In the Sioux Falls, South Dakota market, Independent Communications has been blacking out the local Fox station from Mediacom customers since October 15, 2016.  As a result of Independent’s blackout, Sioux Falls area residents have been deprived of the World Series and numerous NFL regular season and playoff games.  Independent is now planning to blackout the Super Bowl.

Bristlecone has refused to restore its signals to Verizon Fios consumers in Syracuse, NY.   According to Syracuse.com, Fios is continuing to negotiate on behalf of consumers to reach a settlement to return Fox to its channel lineup.

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 12 million Americans.  Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to 725 broadcaster blackouts.  With 75 blackouts already in the month of January, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • At Least 75 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 27,400% [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 Statement on ATSC 3.0 Transition

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance today commented on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow broadcasters to deploy the ATSC 3.0 standard.

Statement of American Television Alliance national spokesman Trent Duffy:

“If implemented properly, the ATSC 3.0 standard could bring some important benefits to consumers, including access to higher quality 4K video, immersive sound, and more efficient spectrum usage.  However, a number of questions have been raised by public interest groups, ATVA, and others that the rule-making process must answer.

“We are pleased that the draft NPRM invites comments on these important matters.  We are especially pleased to see questions about how the new standard could impact retransmission consent negotiations and the potentially significant costs associated with the transition–including what new equipment pay TV customers would have to acquire and whether Pay TV customers would be compelled to pay additional fees to receive the new signals.

“The deck is already stacked against the consumer during retrans negotiations. This is why retrans fees are rising at unsustainable levels and television blackouts have reached a crisis point.  Consumers cannot fully benefit from next generation TV if it increases their costs and worsens the already broken retrans system.”

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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.

Countdown to Syracuse and Mississippi Super Bowl Blackout

40,000+ Fans May Not Get NFL’s Biggest Game
Bristlecone and Northwest Keep Verizon Fios and Cable ONE Customers in the Dark
ATVA Urges Restoration of Signal during Contract Negotiations

Washington, D.C. – With just five days left before one of the biggest live television events in the world, The American Television Alliance (ATVA) again asked Bristlecone and Northwest Broadcasting to restore their signals to Verizon Fios and Cable ONE consumers in New York and Mississippi so they can watch the Super Bowl and other network shows.   According to Syracuse.com, Fios is continuing to negotiate on behalf of consumers to reach a settlement to return Fox to its channel lineup.

ATVA also pointed to examples of other broadcasters maintaining signals during similar contract negotiations to illustrate the extreme tactics of Bristlecone and its owner, Brian Brady.  Brady is also on Layer3 TV’s content advisory board, spearheading the company’s partnership with top local broadcasters.

“This Bristlecone blackout has gone on for way too long, and now the Super Bowl is at risk.  For the sake of fans in Syracuse, we ask that the TV signal be restored while negotiations continue, which has been done in other similar situations.  If Mr. Brady won’t do that, it shows his true motivation is profits over people, and it’s a shame.  We hope elected officials and others who represent the people of Syracuse to will take a stand as well and ask that this signal be restored,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

The station takedown represents a familiar pattern for Bristlecone: in 2015, the broadcaster blacked out Fox Syracuse for Fios customers for nearly five  days.  Bristlecone is a subsidiary of Northwest Broadcasting, which is currently blacking out  the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox signals in two Mississippi communities, and its Fox and NBC affiliates in Idaho Falls and Lewiston, Idaho.  The Bristlecone/Northwest broadcasting corporation frequently uses blackouts as “deal leverage.”

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts are on a Blistering Record-Breaking Pace in 2017 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts affecting millions of Americans in 2017 are hitting a record-shattering pace, with 75 blackouts already in the month of January.   If the pace keeps up, TV blackouts in 2017 would completely dwarf the record number of 193 blackouts from 2015, when 12 million Americans were victimized.  Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to 725 broadcaster blackouts.

  • 75 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 27,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and more troubling, have seen 40% annual increases over the last 4 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.