News

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  “Outdated laws allow broadcasters and hired guns like the ‘Retrans Man’ to fleece loyal TV viewers and diehard sports fans by demanding outrageous fee increases.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.

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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.

 

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.”

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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 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.”

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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 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.

###

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.