Broadcaster’s Past Blackouts of Football Puts Dark Cloud on New Season
Washington, D.C. – Broadcasters ran the #blackoutblitz on consumers in 2017 as the TV blackout crisis caused millions of pro and college football fans to miss some of the biggest games of the year, including pivotal matchups and post-season games. The number of blackouts in 2017 reached a record high of 213, breaking the previous calendar year record set in 2015 of 193. At 83 blackouts already in 2018, blackouts are continuing at a record pace.
Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category. Marquee football games are used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extort higher fees from consumers. When pay-TV operators refuse to give in to outrageous fee demands that are borne by consumers, broadcasters pull the plug and leave TV fans in the dark. ATVA has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restrict broadcasters from being able to use marquee programming as deal leverage. Blackouts aren’t just limited to football, however. Last year, baseball playoffs were blacked out in the same brazen attempt to secure higher fees from consumers.
Some specific examples from last season include:
- Northwest Broadcasting’s blackout of Charter Spectrum customers for more than four months, a period that included the NFL Super Bowl and NHL Stanley Cup.
- The 2017 MLB Playoffs, including the 2017 World Series Between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.
- NFL Divisional Round Playoff matchups between the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons; Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs; and Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
- The NFL’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Game between the Minnesota Vikings and The Detroit Lions.
- Capital Broadcasting’s blackout of hometown fans in Raleigh, NC during a matchup between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
- Pivotal college football matchups including the highly anticipated matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
“The TV blackout, or even the threat of one, is becoming one of the ugliest traditions in spectator sports, and it should end. Sports fans in particular are some of the most frequent victims of broadcaster blackouts, and as this crisis grows we’re afraid this year could be the worst we’ve ever seen,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy. “This broadcaster playbook of fleecing fans will continue until Congress and the FCC take action to protect them.”
Live sporting events like football are regularly used by broadcasters to extract higher fees that are ultimately borne by consumers. According to the American Television Alliance’s blackout tracking data, instances of post-season football blackouts are on the rise over the last two years.
The rules governing our video marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated in the 1992 Cable Act. These rules were written at a time when most consumers had only one choice for pay TV service and the internet was still in its infancy.
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.
- 83 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.