Hearst TV Threatens NFL Wild Card Round

34 Local Broadcast Stations in 26 Markets Go Dark for DIRECTV & AT&T TV 
Golden Globes Also Threatened

Washington, D.C. – Hearst Television on January 3 at 5 p.m. EST pulled 34 stations in 26 markets from DIRECTV and AT&T TV customers, threatening the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs in millions of homes. Two of the impacted markets — Des Moines IA and Louisville KY — could lose tonight’s NFL Wild Card matchup between the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots on CBS. Eleven other markets could miss Sunday’s January 5 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles — including nearby Harrisburg, PA.  In addition to playoff football, many TV fans could also miss the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on NBC Sunday night. 

Last year, TV fans endured 281 broadcaster blackouts, a new all-time high record.  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.    

“The American Television Alliance calls on Hearst TV to immediately end its TV blackout of DIRECTV and AT&T TV customers.  Instead of tuning into the biggest games of the season, football fans across the country are getting a blank screen,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

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 1,200 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 1,200 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S. 

  • 26 blackouts to date in 2020
  • 281 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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