While the American TV Alliance says retrans is “totally rigged” in favor of the broadcasters, the broadcasters target AT&T for “greed that has led it to cannibalize its own [U-Verse] service and mistreat its own customers.” AT&T also owns DirecTV.
Satellite Business News — With an unusual number of retransmission consent disputes percolating at the moment, the war of words between video services and the broadcast industry resumed this week even as some of the companies involved reached yet another series of short-term extensions.
The spokesman for The American TV Alliance—which counts AT&T, Dish Network, Verizon, and several programmers as members— took to the airwaves in one market which has seen viewers lose TV stations to blast broadcasters.
In an interview on a Columbus, Ohio, radio station owned by IHeart Media, the group’s Trent Duffy said the current retransmission consent law is “totally rigged” in favor of broadcasters.
As reported, Columbus is one of two markets where AT&T’s DirecTV DBS and ‘U-verse’ wireline services have lost local stations as a result of the expiration of retransmission consent agreements with The Dispatch Broadcast Group.
That has resulted in the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, and the CBS affiliate in Columbus going dark on the DirecTV and “U-verse” services.
“Plain and simple, [broadcasters] just want more money from the consumers who use those services,” Duffy said.
Local stations, he added, “can yank” their stations from video services and are “in the driver’s seat” in negotiations with video services.
Broadcasters “are out of line because they can ask for whatever they want,” Duffy said, and the fees paid by consumers to watch local stations are the “fastest rising part” of the monthly subscriptions consumers pay.
Broadcasters “claim it’s a fair market [system], but all it’s doing is it’s lining the pockets of TV executives in New York and Hollywood,” he added. Duffy specifically mentioned CBS Chairman Les Moonves in his comments.
The current retrans “rules are ancient, they’re rigged in favor of the broadcasters, and it’s time to update them or get rid of them entirely,” Duffy said.
Not to be outdone, the broadcast industry’s own lobbying group distributed an often sarcastic statement targeting AT&T and DirecTV.
The group, which mostly saves its most pejorative comments for Dish Network, said it is “not Dish Network…which usually wins first prize in the contest for pay-TV company most hostile to consumers. Nope, this year’s blue ribbon goes to AT&T—the massively consolidated Ma Bell look-alike that owns both telco pay-TV [service] ‘U-Verse’ and ginormous satellite pay-TV [service] DirecTv. Combined, AT&T’s ‘U-Verse’ and DirecTv account for a whopping 52 percent of every retransmission consent disruption in 2017.”
The broadcasters accused AT&T of employing “bully boy tactics” because “with a market capitalization that may match the size of some small countries, [the company] forces stations off the air for one reason, and one reason only: Because it can! And if local TV viewers have to suffer, so be it.”
The broadcast group also argued it is “no surprise that with the largest pay-TV company the bottom line comes before the consumer.
“Indeed, AT&T’s greed has led it to cannibalize its own [‘U-verse’] service and mistreat its own customers, blaming local broadcasters in its path of destruction.”