Skyrocketing “Retrans” Fees Eliminate Resources for Independent Programming and Deployment of Rural Broadband
Washington, D.C. – Consumers could soon be missing out on their favorite independent programming and the deployment of rural broadband could be threatened if retransmission consent fees continue to skyrocket, say the newest members of the American Television Alliance (ATVA). As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR), independent programmers RIDE TV, MAVTV, REVOLT, and Cinémoi are joining ATVA and calling on Congress to end the TV blackout and runaway retrans fee crisis.
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 believes Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition. ATVA opposes blackouts whether generated by broadcasters or the inaction of Congress.
Retransmission consent fees (the fees broadcasters charge cable providers for what they call “free over-the-air TV) represent the fastest rising part of consumers’ pay-TV bill. These fees reached $10.1 billion in 2018 and are expected to reach $12.8 billion by 2023. As retrans fees go up each year it leaves fewer resources for pay-TV providers, particularly smaller ones, to pay for things like independent programming and the expansion of broadband into rural areas.
“The challenges small rural cable providers are facing because of outdated video laws are threatening broadband deployment,” said Matt Polka, President and CEO of ACA Connects, and a member of ATVA. “Our smaller, independent members are losing subscribers, shutting down all together, or being sold to larger companies, and customers are losing competitive options. These alarming trends will continue until Congress fixes our broken system. We are proud to stand with consumers and independent programmers against skyrocketing retrans fees and TV blackouts.”
“The video marketplace keeps changing, but the TV blackout crisis and retrans racket that hurts consumers stays the same,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman. “Consumers have lost billions of dollars and have been used as pawns, and the fact that our coalition is growing should demonstrate that the current system is broken and the call for reform is getting louder. It is time to bring our nation’s ancient video laws in line with the reality of today.”
“If federal spending rose as quickly as retransmission consent has over the last 10 years, Washington would be spending $131.4 trillion per year,” said Craig Morris, President of RIDE Television. “It’s no wonder why MVPDs can no longer afford to carry independent networks.”
“Racial minorities hold a majority interest in just 2.6% of full power commercial television stations,” said James Brown, EVP, Content Distribution and Marketing, REVOLT. “Retransmission consent denies opportunity and capital from minority owned networks like REVOLT and gives it to the 97.4% of broadcast licenses owned by whites.”
“Retransmission consent has made an already challenging media environment for independents even more difficult to compete,” said Rod Sherwood, CEO and Co-Chairman of Cinémoi. “We urge Congress to be mindful of independent networks in any actions they may take that affects broadcasters and the media market.”
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.
American Television Alliance
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.
RIDE TV is 24-hour, high-definition television network dedicated to showcasing equestrian sports, culture and lifestyle. RIDE TV delivers high-quality programming to audiences across the nation. From live sports and documentary series to feature films, RIDE TV is the premiere destination for equestrian content.
Owned and operated by Lucas Oil Products, MAVTV Motorsports Network is the only cable television network in the U.S. dedicated solely to motorsports. MAVTV offers an unparalleled line-up of exclusive and prestigious events. MAVTV goes beyond the national mainstream events to include a multitude of grassroots racing from across the globe: drag racing, pro motocross, sprint boats, rally cars, short course off-road truck racing, sprint cars, pro pulling, drifting, drag boats, ice racing and everything in between.
REVOLT is unapologetically Hip Hop, leading and living Hip Hop culture. REVOLT, launched by Sean “Diddy” Combs in October 2013, is the voice of the culture across platforms, engaging Millennial and Gen Z audiences, across social, TV and live events, through original and live content. Attracting over 50 million young people, REVOLT is accessible 24/7 on digital, TV and on demand.
Cinémoi is a television network focusing on film, fashion and international style. It’s premium programming gives viewers front row seats to an assortment of international titles and festivals, curated vintage to modern movies, as well as green and haute couture content, and an array of glamorous events, including the Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet and Closing Ceremony, and the channel’s annual CineFashion Film Awards show.