The American Cable Association today launched TV Ransom, a national campaign to “set the record straight that corporate broadcasters are to blame for out-of-control retransmission consent fees and TV station blackouts that blindside consumers with the needless loss of their favorite news, weather reports, and national sporting and entertainment events.” Across the country hundreds of local […]
The American Cable Association today launched TV Ransom, a national campaign to “set the record straight that corporate broadcasters are to blame for out-of-control retransmission consent fees and TV station blackouts that blindside consumers with the needless loss of their favorite news, weather reports, and national sporting and entertainment events.”
Across the country hundreds of local cable operators are beginning to negotiate with a handful of corporate media conglomerates that own many of the local TV station affiliates for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. This process, called retransmission consent, pits the ACA’s 750 small and mid-size cable operator members, who predominantly serve rural Americans and provide competition to large operators in urban markets, against huge corporations that ACA says have “no stake or ties to these local communities.”
The outcome, ACA says, is predictable: “Broadcasters leverage their market power to charge these smaller providers the highest rates in the market, raising the cable bills of more than 7 million cable customers across the country.”
“Retransmission consent should be a straight-forward business negotiation, but, unfortunately, these corporate broadcasters abuse their market power to extract outrageous fees from cable customers,” said Matthew M. Polka, ACA president-CEO.
Smaller pay-TV providers are not alone regarding concerns about runaway retransmission consent fees, ACA says, quoting a senior executive of Comcast, which owns the NBC network and 28 NBC and Telemundo local television stations, as describing retransmission consent fees as the “No. 1 driver of increases in cable prices for consumers these days.”
Since passage of the 1992 Cable Act, which marks its 25th anniversary on Oct. 5, cable operators and broadcasters have been negotiating “retrans.” And for 25 years, ACA says, “the fees that cable operators and their customers are forced to pay have been growing at exponential rates even though viewership is down: Retrans fees rose about 30 times over the last decade while network primetime audiences fell by more than half, according to SNL Kagan and Nielsen.”
Furthermore, ACA claims, broadcasters generally extract the highest fees from the smallest cable operators and their customers, and their demands keep escalating. SNL Kagan projects that these fees will cost U.S. consumers and satellite and cable operators $11.6 billion by 2022, up from $8.6 billion in 2017, a 35% increase in just five years.
ACA says the TV Ransom campaign is designed to:
- Illustrate how corporate broadcasters use their market power to take advantage of retransmission consent negotiations to extract escalating fees from cable customers.
- Expose corporate broadcasters’ weak business models, which lead to their aggressive negotiation tactics designed to make money off the backs of consumers.
- Demonstrate how consolidation of broadcast and media companies is taking local TV station ownership corporate, so that local news is no longer local, and “free TV” is no longer free.