Nexstar Media Group Threatens 12-city Blackout Unless TDS Agrees to Nexstar’s Demands

Washington, D.C. – Nexstar Media Group, one of the largest broadcasters in the country, is continuing its blackout of small cable provider TDS just days before the Super Bowl, impacting customers in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Oregon.  Nexstar’s blackout of TDS began 31 days ago.

In one of the more remarkable demands, Nexstar would force TDS to carry unspecified programming as a replacement should its stations lose their network affiliation agreements.  For example, Nexstar could swap out The Big 4 Networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) that include marquee events like live sports, award shows, and other popular television programs, with anything from oldie television reruns to a home shopping network.  TDS would be forced to pay a premium price for less desirable programming.

Using the Super Bowl as leverage to increase fees on consumers for what is supposed to be a free, over the air television is an annual event.  In 2018, Northwest Broadcasting threatened to blackout Charter Communications customers in Yuma, AZ, Eureka, CA, and Idaho Falls, ID.  In 2017, Independent Broadcasting pulled down its signal, preventing Mediacom customers in Sioux Falls, SD from watching Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.  ATVA has asked the FCC to ban broadcasters’ use of marquee programming as leverage during retrans negotiations.

“Another Super Bowl, another blackout, and higher TV bills for thousands of Americans.  When will it end?  The answer is it won’t until Washington steps up on behalf of consumers and modernizes America’s ancient television laws,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

Nexstar is holding the following stations hostage for higher fees:

Broadcaster
Provider
City
State
Station
Nexstar
TDS
Ruidoso
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Truth or Consequences
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Socorro
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Alamogordo
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Carlsbad
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Hobbs
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Lovington
NM
KRQE-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Mesquite
NV
KLAS-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Madras
OR
KBNZ-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Crooked River Ranch
OR
KBNZ-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Prineville
OR
KBNZ-CBS
Nexstar
TDS
Seminole
TX
KLBK-CBS

Consumers were threatened with up to 70 year-end blackouts.  Broadcasters followed through with their blackouts in 24 states and the District of Columbia, impacting a total of 54 markets. Live televised football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to an analysis by ATVA.

Broadcasters shattered the record for the most TV blackouts in a single calendar year in 2017, intentionally taking down signals from cable and satellite customers a staggering 213 times.  Consumers were blacked out 165 times in 2018 while broadcasters collected $10.1 billion in retrans fees, up from $9.3 billion in 2017.

The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage or must carry, and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent.  Retransmission consent fees are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels.  If demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters pull their signals.   A cable or satellite operator is not allowed to provide subscribers a broadcaster’s signal without permission, which allows broadcasters to use the threat of, or actual, blackouts to extort higher fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.

Major rules governing the U.S.  media marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated for the media in the 1992 Cable Act. These rules were written at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy and multiple streaming options didn’t exist.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 Breaks Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake in Billions from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts. In the 10-year period between 2008 and 2018, retrans fees collected by broadcasters went from about a half a billion dollars to $10.1 billion, an increase of 1,920 percent.  With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 30 blackouts in 2019
  • 165 blackouts in 2018
  • 213 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

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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.