ICYMI: NAB Chief Says Retrans Fees Are 12 Cents of Consumers’ Cable Bill — If that’s an offer – we will take it!

Washington, D.C. – The President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, Gordon Smith, told a house panel today that retransmission consent fees represent only 12 cents of a consumer’s pay-TV bill. Patricia Boyers, President of BOYCOM Vision, a small independent cable operator, disputed the claim, saying that her subscribers pay $12.16 each on their bill for retransmission of 4 broadcast stations. Robert Thun, Senior Vice President at AT&T, said, he wishes the fee was that low, but that number is dwarfed by what he pays for retrans.

“12 cents? If that’s an offer, we’ll take it,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA Spokesman. “We would love to see the proof. Broadcasters have a history of spreading half-truths to protect a system that has allowed them to jack up billions of dollars in fees on consumers,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

Retransmission consent fees represent the fastest rising portion of consumers pay-TV bills. Broadcasters pocketed $10.1 billion in 2018 from pay TV customers for ‘free’ TV, according to industry analyst SNL Kagan.  Retrans fees have risen 4,950 percent since 2006, from about $200 million to $10.1 billion in 2018.   

“The broken retrans regime is quite the racket, and it’s gotten a lot worse in the last decade. Broadcasters have weaponized TV blackouts, deliberately targeting live sports and other must-see TV in order to jack up retrans prices. 

Congress should take the opportunity to reauthorize STELAR and examine this broken and outdated system that favors broadcasters at the expense of consumers.”  

On recent earnings calls, broadcasters have bragged about their retrans cash haul: 

Nexstar Media Group: “Revenue at Nexstar was up 1.8% to $626.6 million in the quarter, a record for the broadcaster. Driving those increases was a 14% rise in retransmission consent revenue to $314 million,” [Multichannel News 5/8/19]. 

Gray Television Inc.: “Retransmission consent revenue increased $42 million, or 26%, to $204 million,” [Yahoo Finance 5/8/19]. 

Sinclair Broadcast Group: “Distribution revenue, which includes retransmission consent fees and affiliate fees from its cable networks, was up 12% to $352 million in the quarter, compared to $314 million in the first quarter of 2018,” [Multichannel News 5/8/19]. 

Fox: “…chalked up the revenue gain to affiliate and advertising revenue growth of 11% and 9%, respectively. Driving those gains was a 29% jump in retransmission consent revenue and a 10% increase in TV advertising revenue. A 35% increase in “other” revenue derived from digital content licensing, the company said,” [Deadline 5/8/19].


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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