TV Blackouts Driving Record Retrans Fees

Retrans, Reverse Compensation at CBS to Exceed $1 Billion in 2016

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today reacted to a recent report in USA TODAY that CBS revenue is up 20 percent during the first quarter of 2016, largely because of the retrans fees it charges pay-TV providers to broadcast its signal.  According to TV News Check, an industry trade publication, CBS will top $1 billion in retrans fees and reverse compensation in 2016. 

ATVA spokesman Michael Hacker commented on the CBS earnings report:

“Each broadcasters’ quarterly earnings report is further confirmation that the retrans cash grab is driving the TV blackout crisis.  Last year, broadcasters pulled the plug on pay-TV viewers 193 times, a new single-calendar year record.  Now yet another broadcaster announces record earnings powered by higher retrans fees; it is easy to do the math.    

For many months, the FCC has been working to update its rules to protect consumers from the menace of TV blackouts.  The time for study is over; it is time for the Commission to take decisive action to protect the public interest and stop the harm caused by the blackout crisis.” 

TV Blackout Crisis:  Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 600 broadcaster blackouts. Blackouts have soared in the past five years. ATVA began keeping track of broadcaster blackouts in 2010. Since that time there have been:

  • 26 Blackouts to date 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

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time over 50% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • According to an ATVA analysis of publicly available industry data and SNL Kagan data, fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and more troubling, have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.


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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