With rising programming costs, there’s long been an argument that a day of reckoning is coming. The day may be upon us as Dish enters month eight without Univision and its fourth month without HBO. Verizon and Comcast both booted Fuse at year-end. Nervous investors are watching to see what happens with DirecTV-Viacom negotiations this year. And yet there are still some new linear deals getting done. What’s not clear is the terms of these deals, including whether there is an affiliate fee attached or launch initiatives in place.
Lately, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice headed by Makan Delrahim has been undermining the FCC — and perhaps even Congress — and disrupting the broadcasting business as it struggles to ward off rivals for viewers and ad dollars on multiple fronts. I cannot remember a time when Justice has plunged so deeply into the nitty gritty of the broadcasting advertising marketplace and what kind of local station combinations should be allowed.
Nexstar Media and TDS Telecom said they reached a new retransmission consent agreement, ending a blackout that has lasted since the beginning of the year. TDS said the comprehensive agreement will mean the restoration of the signals of Nexstar stations to more than 50,000 TDS consumers in eight states.
American Cable Association President Matt Polka has taken issue with Nexstar’s online effort to sell the importance of its signals to local government and the impact of their absence from Antietam Broadband, with which it is currently at a retrans impasse.
Retransmission negotiations between TDS Telecom and Nexstar Media Group are not going well, TDS’s CEO said as a channel blackout on TDS systems continued into day 16. More than 50,000 TDS customers in eight states are affected, without access to channels including ABC, CBS and Fox in certain markets.
The new contract covers Tribune’s 42 television stations and cable network WGN America.
Disputes between cable companies and program providers are typical this time of year. But the dispute between Charter Communications’ Spectrum TV and Tribune Media is beginning to feel anything but typical. Entering its eighth day, this skirmish could be the one that escalates into a prolonged battle.
In an open letter to the roughly six million subscribers of Charter’s Spectrum pay-TV service who are currently without Tribune Broadcasting affiliates in 24 markets, Tribune CEO Peter Kern blasted Charter for offering a “false picture” of the companies’ carriage negotiations.
It’s only days old, but the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group, is already complaining that 2019 is a horrible year for cable TV viewers due to blackouts caused by carriage disputes, and the one between Spectrum and Tribune Media that prevented perhaps millions of viewers from watching NFL wild card games on their own TV sets over the weekend is the most egregious example.
Eventually, Congress or the White House is going to cave and the FCC will be back to its old self. That’s too bad. Wouldn’t it be nice if the shutdown of some pointless and counterproductive broadcast regulations were permanent?