Pay TV video-subscriber losses, fueled in part by the economic uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, reached a record high in the first quarter and are expected to get bigger, leaving exposed two of the largest revenue segments for programmers —
retransmission consent and affiliate fees.
DirecTV could lose two CBS, one NBC, two ABC and two CW affiliates next week due to a retans fee fight with their owner, Lilly Broadcasting.
An unprecedented first quarter saw local TV’s ad sales go off a cliff with some broadcasters declining to give guidance for what’s ahead, but a bright spot was the double- and triple-digit ratings gains for local newscasts.
TV station group Howard Stirk Holdings (HSH) has agreed to pay $100,000 and adopt a compliance regime to settle an FCC charge that it had breached its duty to negotiate retransmission consent agreements in good faith. HSH admitted to the good faith violation as part of the settlement. The FCC’s Media Bureau chief, Michelle Carey, said it would be in the public interest to adopt the consent decree and settle the matter.
Cox Media Group said it reached a deal that will return its Seattle CBS affiliate, KIRO, to subscribers of Ziply Fiber after a two-year outage. The agreement is effective May 1 at 12:01 a.m. PT
The American Television Alliance told the FCC that the problems with a competitive communications marketplace are retrans blackouts, retrans fees and broadcast consolidation in spite of FCC rules that are supposed to limit it, consolidation that drives retrans fees higher and has driven some smaller MVPDs have been pushed out of that marketplace.
Fox and Comcast Wednesday announced a long-term renewal of their distribution agreement for Fox’s full portfolio of channels, including retransmission consent for the Fox Television Stations to Xfinity customers.
NAB President Gordon Smith said broadcasters don’t want to see any retransmission consent service disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called for a retransmission consent quiet period to avoid TV station signals going off MVPDs.
Cox said the move gives viewers access to important public health information during the COVID-19 crisis.
Notifications about cable carriage have now gone electronic — and contact people at stations and MVPDs for notices about carriage issues are now to be provided in the FCC-hosted online public inspection file and in the Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS). Cable operators are required to upload the same information to COALS. This contact information must be uploaded no later than July 31 and must be kept up-to-date thereafter.
Broadcasters have been successful in negotiating rate increases with MVPDs and virtual MVPDs for their “must-have” programming, so retrans continues to grow even as cord-cutting reduces subscriber numbers. And as they enjoyed the retrans boosts evening out some of the odd- and even-year political impact, broadcasters are embracing the prospect of record-breaking political hauls this year.
Today’s consumer does not have an unlimited financial appetite for new streaming services. Every time a new OTT service is selected, the consumer will feel pressure to drop something else. As competition increases, one must ask what all this means to retransmission consent.
The spats between TV distributors and networks that grew out of the cable and satellite era are beginning to spill over into the streaming world. Consumers that cut the cord to avoid paying for expensive TV packages are going to be susceptible to some of the same problems, like programming blackouts, that they had with traditional television.
When Dish Network lost 18 Apollo Global-owned Cox Media Group stations on Jan 18 (formerly Northwest Broadcasting stations), it managed to keep 13 Cox Media Group stations from going dark on its lineup thanks to a temporary restraining order issued by Illinois state court. But in the latest turn of events, Cox is suing Dish for copyright infringement for the continued carriage of those stations, which include Atlanta’s WSB and Orlando’s WFOX.
Dish Network said that its subscribers lost access to the signal from stations bought by Apollo Global Management in 10 markets at 7 p.m. Saturday as retransmission consent negotiations failed. Apollo acquired the stations from Northwest Broadcasting last year.
The FCC has set comment dates for its proposal to allow cable operators to provide notice to customers about potential service or rate changes “as soon as possible.” Initial comments are due Feb. 6 and replies Feb. 21. The FCC voted unanimously on Dec. 12 to propose eliminating the requirement that cable operators provide their subs at least 30 days notice of a TV station channel coming off their systems, changing it to notice “as soon as possible” given that retrans deals are often struck in the 11th hour.
WISC, the CBS affiliate in Madison, Wisc., has been blacked out to U-verse subscribers because of a retransmission consent dispute between station owner Morgan Murphy Media and AT&T, which owns U-verse.
ViacomCBS said today it reached a new carriage agreement with Comcast that includes retransmission consent for 23 CBS-owned TV stations, including CBS-owned CW affiliates. The deal covers CBS’s cable properties and will make the streaming service CBS All Access available to Comcast customers via the Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms later this year.
At AT&T spokesman said a new retransmission consent agreement was reached Sunday, and stations are returning to DirecTV and AT&T in time for the NFL Playoffs and Golden Globes, among other programming.
Mission Broadcasting said its stations in 18 markets are no longer being carried by Dish Network because of a retransmission consent dispute. The stations were removed by Dish without warning Friday night, Mission said. The broadcaster said it had offered to extend its current agreement so viewers wouldn’t miss the beginning of the NFL playoff but Dish turned it down. Dish said the opposite happened, blaming Mission for the signals being pulled.
Hearst Television, after granting four temporary extensions to DirecTV and streaming service AT&T TV Now to try to hammer out a deal, pulled its 34 broadcast stations from the satellite giant’s customers Friday evening, after the parties failed to reach a retransmission consent agreement.
The Cox Media stations acquired by Apollo Global Management have been blacked out to subscribers to Verizon’s FiOS as the result of a retransmission consent fee dispute. Verizon’s deal with the stations expired Tuesday at midnight.
Fox reached a new carriage agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative, averting a New Year’s blackout. The NCTC represents more than 700 small and rural cable operators covering about 3 million subscribers.
Mediacom Communications said Tuesday evening it reached a retransmission consent deal with Nexstar Media Group, avoiding a blackout of the latter’s TV stations, since the old deal was scheduled to expire at midnight. Mediacom’s agreement comes hours after Nexstar reached similar retransmission consent deals with Comcast and Frontier Communications.
Wednesday evening at about 10:30 p.m. ET, Tegna said it “reached a multi-year agreement with Suddenlink with no interruption of service to viewers.” The previous retransmission consent contract was to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET. The agreement covers about 20 stations.
Tegna Inc. on Saturday released the following update on the status of negotiations with Suddenlink on a new retransmission consent agreement: “Tegna is working hard to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Suddenlink. While we hope a deal can be reached by 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 31 and avoid any interruption of service, we have a responsibility to inform our viewers of the current situation. We have begun notifying viewers of their options to continue watching our valuable local programming if the deadline passes without an agreement.”
There are only a few days left before folks will begin ringing in the New Year, but Fox Corp and NCTC are spending the final week of 2019 negotiating carriage agreements for the Fox O&Os and a number of cable networks, including Fox News, before their current deal’s Dec. 31 expiration date.
Congress is handing traditional broadcasters such as CBS and ABC a surprise victory in a contentious, multimillion-dollar TV lobbying fight by letting key parts of a 31-year-old satellite TV law die.
The Senate has put the STELAR retransmission consent reform vehicle on blocks, apparently for good. As expected the Senate has passed compromise bills that make the retrans good faith negotiation mandate for broadcasters and MVPDs permanent and sunsets the every-five-year renewal of the satellite distant signal compulsory license.
The FCC has voted unanimously to propose eliminating the requirement that cable operators provide their subs at least 30 days notice of a TV station channel coming off their systems, changing it to notice “as soon as possible” given that retrans deals are often struck in the 11th hour. It must still collect comment on the proposal and vote on a final order, but that will almost certainly happen.
A source familiar with the agreement said that there is a bicameral, bipartisan deal on House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary versions of bills that would essentially end the every-five-year STELAR reauthorization cycle, which has been a goal of the National Association of Broadcasters. STELAR’s renewal has been used as a vehicle for proposed retrans reforms NAB has opposed as unnecessary.
Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications are blaming retransmission consent fees and sports rights for hikes to their monthly cable rates.
The House has passed a compromise bill, HR 5035, the Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA), that would make permanent the mandate that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate in good faith. That mandate sunsets at the end of the year unless renewed. But the bill does not renew the compulsory license, which also sunsets at the end of the year if not renewed.
At CBS, where he was senior vice president from 1988 to 1993, Kriegel helped persuade Congress to require the cable TV industry to pay broadcasters for the right to retransmit over-the-air programming.
Congress is debating whether to renew the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, commonly referred to as STELAR, past Dec. 31, when it’s set to expire. Dr. George Ford, with the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, says focus is on a key question: Should broadcasters get to charge whatever retransmission fee the market will bear?
AT&T reached a renewal of its retransmission agreement with Nashville License Holdings, which owns the CW affiliate in Nashville, lifting a six-month blackout and ending a dispute that affected a dozen stations that operate under shared service agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has introduced yet another version of a STELAR renewal bill, the “Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act (STCPP) of 2019.” There are already Senate Commerce and House Energy & Commerce versions of a bill that would renew the satellite compulsory distant signal license and the mandate that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate carriage deals with each other in good faith.
Denver-area regional sports network Altitude, blacked out by Comcast since August, sued the cable operator charging Comcast with violating antitrust laws and trying to put Altitude out of business.