TV Consumers Forced to Pay Broadcasters Billions for Years to Come

If you thought broadcasters would realize retrans needs to go, think again. They’re planning to rake in even more fees.

This week, at SNL Kagan’s annual TV and Radio Finance Summit, Michael Biard, president of distribution for the Fox Networks Group, said he expects to see growth in retrans revenues from Fox-owned stations and reverse retrans fees from affiliates. Fox isn’t the only broadcaster expected to reap this windfall. SNL Kagan released their latest analysis, estimating retrans revenues will hit $7.6 billion in 2019. That’s on top of the $7.15 billion they predicted for 2018.

Although intended to support localism, very little will help local broadcast programming. According to SNL Kagan, reverse retrans is about 45% of retrans revenue and is expected to reach 55% in a few years.

As reverse retrans grows, retrans becomes a larger piece of the broadcasters’ profit, with many receiving more than 20% of their revenue. The numbers tell the story:

  • Sinclair 24%
  • CBS 23%
  • Fox 22%
  • Nexstar 20%
  • Allbritton 20%
  • LIN 20%

Broadcasters have manipulated an outdated rule to create skyrocketing fees for “free” content, which cause cable bills to rise. These revenues fund their corporate headquarters, not the local news and programming the rule was supposed to protect. Broadcasters are the only supporters of retrans, because they’re the only ones who benefit.

Consumers can’t wait for more studies and hearings to tell them what they already know. They need immediate action. There is clear, bipartisan support for change and a variety of solutions. Congress should protect consumers and end the retrans madness.