ATVA Launches New Ad Campaign to Reform Retransmission Consent Fees as TV Blackouts Approach All-Time High

Pending CBS Blackout Would Break the Annual Record set in 2017

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance launched a new advertising campaign as a possible third major TV blackout loomed, which would put the annual TV blackout total into record territory in 2019 and plague millions of Americans across several states.  The ad campaign is part of a significant push by the ATVA urging Congress to act on reforming outdated video marketplace laws.  You can see all the ads being used at https://www.americantelevisionalliance.org/media-center/

A pending CBS blackout impacting millions of consumer in 18 markets, would be the third outage in the country in the past two weeks, breaking the annual record set in 2017.  Yesterday, Meredith Corporation caused a major TV blackout by pulling its signal from millions of DISH Network customers in 12 television markets in 18 states.   Meredith’s blackout of DISH customers brought 2019’s blackout total to 213 only seven months into the year, tying the 1-year record set in 2017.  In addition to Meredith’s blackout of DISH Network customers, Nexstar is currently blacking out millions of DIRECTV, U-verse and DIRECTV Now customers in approximately 100 U.S. cities, denying access to 125 local stations.  Since 2006, retrans fees fees have gone from about $200 million to $10.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 4,950 percent.   

On Wednesday, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA), asked Nexstar to end its massive blackout of Direct TV, U-Verse and DIRECTV Now customers that began two weeks ago.  The two lawmakers are working on a bipartisan reform proposal that they plan to unveil this year.

“TV blackouts and broadcaster fee hikes will hit a record this year with no end in sight, so we are making sure Congress gets the message loud and clear,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Consumers have lost billions of dollars and have been used as pawns.  It is time to bring our nation’s ancient video laws in line with the reality of today, and this ad campaign will help support that effort.”

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR).  As many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, will lose access to broadcast channels if Congress fails to reauthorize STELAR. 

ATVA strongly supports the reauthorization of STELAR and bipartisan momentum continues to build to extend the legislation.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) recently said STELAR is “must-pass” legislation, while  Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has called retransmission consent a “racket.” 

“Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR so rural America can continue receiving all their broadcast channels, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition,” added Duffy.

The 1992 Cable Act first established the regulatory regime 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 blackouts and actual blackouts to extort higher fees – fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.

TV Blackout Crisis: Over 1,000 Blackouts since 2010 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.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S.

  • 213 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

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.

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