At the opening of the American Cable Association’s Washington Summit, Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah also says escalating sports programming costs must be addressed.
American Cable Association Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah kicked off ACA’s 19th Washington Summit with a call for modernized retransmission consent rules in addition to action on escalating sports programming costs for ACA members, saying both were needed to deal with the groundswell of concern about the lack of real consumer choice in the selection of video programming.
“We all know that the retransmission consent law is out of date. Modernizing this law would demonstrate that Congress is capable of acting on overwhelming evidence that broadcasters are abusing their market power to swell their bottom line,” Abdoulah said to an assembly of hundreds of ACA members gathered at Washington’s Grand Hyatt hotel.
Abdoulah, who is CEO and chairwoman of WOW Internet, Phone and Cable based in Englewood, Colo., was introduced by ACA President-CEO Matthew M. Polka, who urged all attendees at the Summit to make office visits Thursday on Capitol Hill and at the FCC to convey the trade group’s key messages on retransmission consent.
“The ACA Summit is an unmatched opportunity to deliver our message to the people who can make a difference, and I hope you take full advantage of the opportunity,” Polka said, adding that hundreds of broadcasters would be on Capitol Hill at the same time trying to blunt ACA’s efforts. “Don’t be surprised if you bump into National Association of Broadcasters boosters on your rounds in Congress.”
In her remarks, Abdoulah cited a recent SNL Kagan report that retrans fees increased nearly 50% over the two-year period ending September, 2011. “Obviously,” she added, “this study did not capture the cash grab that broadcasters just staged during last fall’s retrans election cycle.”
On another programming issue, Abdoulah voiced concern about the escalating cost of national and regional sports channels and the inability of non-sports fans, who are the majority of subscribers, to have some alternative to paying for expensive channels they don’t watch.
“With ESPN, NBC, CBS, and Fox signing new deals with the NFL that will cost $42 billion, we know who pays for this: It will be forced down the throats of all pay TV customers, including millions of consumers who are not sports fans.” Abdoulah said. “It is our hope that it won’t be long before Washington officials decide it might be appropriate to call time out and do something about this.”
Abdoulah — who helped ACA achieve regulatory conditions to Comcast Corp.’s takeover of NBC Universal in January 2011 — saluted lawmakers who are rejecting broadcasters’ claim that the retransmission consent market is working and living up to consumer expectations.
“Last December, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana proposed market-oriented bills that would eliminate video laws and regulations that unfairly advantage the broadcast industry. We look forward to working with Sen. DeMint and Rep. Scalise, knowing full well that broadcasters oppose this bill because they want to see their regulatory crutches maintained,” Abdoulah said.
Abdoulah’s remarks also referenced the FCC’s effort to update Universal Service Fund rules to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for the completion of broadband Internet access facilities in rural and unserved areas of the country. ACA, she said, will fight to see that the size of the USF broadband fund remains within budget and reverse auctions are utilized to award support, because both are in the best interests of consumers and competition.
“Most especially, ACA will seek to ensure that the FCC does not provide USF broadband money to larger incumbents in areas where they face competition from ACA member companies that have never received a dime in USF money. Government subsidization of a competitor is wrong, unfair and a waste of scarce resources,” Abdoulah said.