Football Fans Target of Latest Massive TV Blackout

Fox Pulls Local Channels in 17 Markets, 23 States and D.C.
Sports Fans Lose Fox, FS1, FS2, Big 10 Network 

Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes

Washington, D.C. –Fox on September 26thpulled its owned and operated TV stations from DISH and Sling TV  customers in 17 markets across 23 states and the District of Columbia.  Fox is also seeking higher rates by bundling its broadcast stations with its sports networks, FS1, FS2, Big 10 Network, Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes.  Fox’s blackout will impact millions of local fans as the NFL enters its fourth week, along with other pivotal college football matchups.  

In addition to Fox’s new blackout, recent disputes involving broadcasters this year include:   

  • Meredith Corporation’s two-month summer blackout in 18 markets on DISH; 
  • Tribune Media’s blackout of Charter Communications viewers in 24 markets;
  • CBS’s nearly three-week blackout of AT&T and DIRECTV customers;
  • Nexstar’s eight-week blackout of approximately 120 stations on AT&T and DIRECTV;
  • Nexstar’s blackout of TDS Telecom viewers in 10 markets after demanding a staggering 129% rate increase; and
  • Tegna’s blackout of Verizon Fios viewers in 3 markets after refusing a significant rate raise.

Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category and are often used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extort higher fees from consumers.  According to industry research by Kagan, retrans fees have gone from about $215 million in 2006 to $11.7 billion in 2019, an increase of 5,359 percent. By 2024, these fees are expected to soar to $16.3 billion.      

As retrans fees and blackouts continue to break records, broadcasters are asking Congress to take away the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement authority during retransmission consent negotiations, known as the “good-faith” standard.  The provision is part of a law called STELAR (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act), which if not reauthorized, will cause as many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, to lose access to broadcast channels by the end of this year.  RV enthusiasts who rely on distant signals as they travel from place to place would also be adversely impacted if STELAR expires.  Groups representing the entire RV industry, along with other consumer groups, have spoken out in support of reauthorizing STELAR before the end of the year. 

“TV blackouts and fees are already out of control, but now broadcasters want to eliminate what little protections viewers have against this brazen behavior.  We’re asking viewers who have been victimized by this or other blackouts to make their voice known to Congress that this is completely unacceptable.  Since the summer surge of blackouts began, thousands of Americans have done just that,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recently introduced the Modern Television Act of 2019, a new bipartisan plan to end TV blackouts and bring America’s video laws into the 21st century.  It is based on the principle that consumer choice, market forces and true competition are the best ways to increase quality and set fair prices for content.  It is a serious proposal that deserves Congress’ attention and action.  

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.

Fox’s blackout will impact millions of local NFL football fans, including: 

  • Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. (Charlotte and Houston)
  • Kansas City Chiefs vs. Detroit Lions Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. (Detroit)
  • Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. (Washington, DC and New York)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. (Tampa Bay and Los Angeles)
  • Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. (Arizona)

Fox’s blackout will also impact millions of college football fans across the country, including: 

  • Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Oklahoma Sooners Saturday at 12:00 PM ET on Fox. (Dallas)
  • USC Trojans vs. Washington Huskies Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on Fox. (Los Angeles and Seattle)
  • Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs Saturday at 12:00 PM ET on FS1. 
  • Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on the Big 10 Network.
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Michigan Wolverines Saturday at 12:00 PM ET on the Big 10 Network.
  • Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Maryland Terrapins Friday at 8:00 PM ET on FS1.
  • Washington State Cougars vs. Utah Utes Saturday at 10:00 PM ET on FS1.

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 1,300 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S. 

  • 276 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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