Broadcaster Threatens to Blackout Severe Weather Alerts, Local News, and Primetime Programming for Thousands of Customers
Washington, D.C. – Due to federal media laws written before cellphones were created, thousands of local TV viewers are facing much higher monthly bills if a Texas-based broadcaster gets its way. Nexstar is demanding that customers of Horry County, SC cable operator HTC pay as much as double the current rate for its CBS (WBTW) and MyNetworkTV signals. HTC is fighting the increase, arguing that customers should not face such egregious price increases for programming, much of it available for free. So far, Nexstar is holding out for the fee hike, and is threatening to pull the service or “blackout” severe weather alerts, news, and primetime network television programming.
HTC asked to begin negotiations with Nexstar over four months ago but was ignored as a contract renewal deadline approached. Nexstar has so far refused to keep its signal on in the event that a deal is not reached. Nexstar’s demands for fee increases would make MyNetworkTV, a station that airs mostly repeats of recent cable and broadcast series, more expensive than most of its other cable programming.
Nexstar is a repeat blackout offender, having pulled the plug on Cox Communications customers in January of 2016. Nexstar’s hard-nosed blackout tactics brought in close to $1 billion in retrans revenue last year, up from $394 million or more than 150% since 2016.
“Nexstar should not blackout local TV fans and should not hold them ransom for higher fees. That is wrong,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman. “In the near term, we call on them to return to the negotiating table and come to a reasonable agreement that doesn’t gouge customers. In the long term, we need Congress and the FCC to fix this, because broadcaster blackouts are at record highs and TV customers are being exploited.
Broadcasters shattered the record for the most TV blackouts in a single calendar year in 2017, intentionally taking down signals from cable and satellite customers a staggering 213 times last year. Consumers were blacked out twice as many times in 2017 as they were in 2016 – a 107 percent increase year over year.
The record number of TV blackouts deprived tens of millions of Americans of network programming, local news and weather, and live sporting events. Broadcasters pocketed $9.3 billion in 2017 from pay TV customers for ‘free’ TV, according to industry analyst SNL Kagan. Network takedowns have surged in the last decade as broadcasters have used blackouts of marquee programming as “deal leverage” to extract higher and higher fees from consumers.
TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 Breaks Blackout Record 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 900 broadcaster-initiated blackouts. With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.
- 38 blackouts in 2018 (And Counting)
- 213 blackouts in 2017 (A New Record)
- 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.