Largest TV Blackout in US History Looms for Millions

Screens Could Go Dark in 79 Markets for DISH Network Customers
Blackout Would Smash 2013 Blackout Record With Four Months to Go

August 15, 2015

Washington, D.C. – In what would be the largest television blackout in US history, Sinclair Broadcasting is threatening to pull its signal off the air for DISH Network customers in 79 markets across the country.  DISH Network customers in several states would not be able to access 153 television stations.  In response to what could be a record-setting blackout orchestrated by Sinclair Broadcasting, ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy issued the following statement:

“This is almost as bad as thieves looting a store before the police arrive.  This week, the FCC Chairman indicated the need to take measures to protect consumers against this kind of abusive behavior, but with their backs against the wall, it appears that broadcasters are trying to squeeze every penny out of the system while they still can.  This outrageous and unprecedented blackout should not happen.”

“This is a big reason people are fed up with Washington, because broadcasters can arrogantly blackout TV fans, charge them two or three times more for “free” TV, and then gloat about that exploitation to Wall Street because unfortunately, it’s all legal. This playbook to profit at the expense of the television public is a direct result of a rigged system that Congress created before the smartphone era.  Congress can and must fix this sham shell game, and we encourage the media to contact local Members of Congress to ask them what they are doing to help local TV fans.”

TV Blackouts Soaring As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens and paid higher bills instead of watching their favorite channels due to at least 602 broadcaster blackouts (*if Sinclair blackout occurs).  The blackouts and bigger TV bills have soared in the past five years and the Sinclair blackout would set the record for the most in one year at 146.  The menace of TV blackouts continues to grow:

  • 146 blackouts to date in 2015 (*if Sinclair blackout occurs)
  • 107 blackouts in 2014
  • 127 blackouts in 2013
  • 91 blackouts in 2012
  • 51 blackouts in 2011
  • 12 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost: SNL Kagan projects that the retransmission revenue broadcasters collect for “free” TV will rise to $6.3 billion in 2015$7.2 billion in 2016, and $10.3 billion by 2021.

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time that 50%of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of Pay TV bills


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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