The broadcaster says AT&T/DirecTV’s actions contrast sharply with its public commentary and cites eight broadcast groups currently without carriage resulting in a loss of service to consumers in 13 U.S. markets.
With the financial pressure on system operators, pitted against need for broadcasters to eventually achieve parity with the most-watched cable networks, retrans fights and blackouts are bound to sometimes happen. The sad reality is that in the short term everyone loses. Viewers lose their favorite programs, stations lose news viewers, DirecTV loses subscribers and station general managers lose their minds.
Legislators continued to turn up the heat in the ongoing retransmission consent battle between DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group, with representatives from seven states joining Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday in sending letters to DirecTV parent AT&T urging for an end to the blackout as it entered its fifth day.
Many DirecTV and AT&T U-verse subs awoke Thursday to find that Nexstar stations were no longer available. The broadcaster claims the stations were “abruptly removed” by the distributor, while AT&T said it had hoped to prevent a blackout and “even offered Nexstar more money to keep their stations available.”
ACA Connects says Gray Television’s contractual prohibition on granting carriage of a TV station to MVPD C Spire Fiber makes a mockery of the FCC’s good faith retransmission consent negotiations and market modification process. That came in comments to the FCC on C Spire’s retrans complaint and request for declaratory ruling.
On behalf of DirecTV, DirecTV Now or U-Verse, AT&T has filed a complaint against nine TV station owners who it says have collectively “pulled” 20 stations from those services on May 30 and June 10, blackouts it says continued at press time “with no end in sight.” AT&T said all the stations have shared services agreements with Sinclair, which it says appears to “manage and control” the stations, but it did not target that broadcaster in the complaint.
According to a recent research note, Charter has struck a retrans deal for renewal of Sinclair TV stations that includes the Fox RSNs. Charter declined to comment, but a recent Wolfe Research note declared, “CHTR renewing the Fox RSNs for a ‘slight increase’ is a nice little positive.”
The retransmission agreement with AT&T/DirecTV to carry the stations recently expired and after several extensions AT&T/DirecTV and the station were not able to reach an agreement that allows for further carriage.
Telepak Networks (C Spire Fiber) has filed a retransmission consent complaint against Gray Television at the FCC alleging lack of good faith bargaining, and has asked for a declaratory ruling that when the FCC modifies a market to add communities served by a significantly viewed station, then that station’s digital streams are also considered to be in that market for the purposes of retrans negotiations.
The second-ranking House Republican and a key Democrat say they’ll push to end broadcasters’ ability to black out signals during negotiations with cable and satellite service providers.
Republican Whip Steve Scalise and senior Energy and Commerce Committee member Anna Eshoo said Monday they will unveil a bill in the coming weeks. It’s likely to set off a fierce lobbying battle between broadcasters, which would lose negotiating leverage, and cable providers, which stand to benefit.
DirecTV is locked in a retransmission consent dispute with 17 small TV stations in 14 markets across the country that have gone dark to the satellite TV giant after attempts to hammer out a deal failed.
There is every reason to believe advertising will continue to be the lifeblood of television, but the continuing growth of retransmission consent should remind us that future opportunities are unlimited.
Broadcasters have more friends in high places, as in on The Hill, for their effort to sunset the satellite distant signal license, though that is itself a high hill to climb. “It is clear that the distant signal license has outlived its usefulness,” said Rep. Jared Golden in a letter to the leadership of the House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary Committees, which together will consider how and whether to renew the STELAR Act.
The new Fox Corp. will be looking to boost its retransmission payments and subscriber fees from cable and satellite operators. “We plan to meaningfully accelerate or growth of both direct retransmission and non-O&O revenue,” said Fox COO John Nallen, speaking at the new company’s first investor day Thursday.
Liberty Puerto Rico and NBCUniversal Media said they reached an agreement that ends a weekend blackout of the local Telemundo station and 13 cable channels. The two companies said they were able to reach “a reasonable commercial agreement” that will return the NBCU content to Liberty customers on the island.
NBCUniversal has begun warning viewers in Puerto Rico that subscribers of Liberty Cablevision might lose access to the local Telemundo station and NBC’s cable networks at 6 p.m. ET Thursday.
Broadcasters and satellite operators are at odds over who would be burdening whom under a new carriage election proposal the FCC is considering. The NAB and NCTA have joined in proposing changes to the carriage election — must carry or retrans — process, which the FCC is looking to streamline as part of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s deregulatory weed-whacking initiative.
After negotiating throughout the weekend, AT&T and Viacom announced Monday morning that they had reached an agreement to renew their carriage agreement. Details of the deal were not immediately available.
DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim slots the event for May 2-3 and says the event may result in Justice changing how it looks not only at mergers, but also at spot advertising and retrans.
NCTA-The Internet & Television Association said the FCC will need to put conditions on the merger of Nexstar and Tribune, otherwise the deal runs a ” material risk of consumer and competitive harm.” NCTA is primarily concerned about the impact of the merged broadcast group on retrans rates.
A smorgasbord of topics this week: (1) I don’t know it for a fact, but I know that it’s true that Charlie Ergen is the money behind Locast, the OTT service that is streaming local broadcast signals. (2) Retrans is also under attack from STELAR, the law that empowers satellite operators to import distant signals of network O&Os into areas where subscribers cannot receive local affiliates off air and is up for renewal. (3) With the emergence of the new Fox Corp. this week, a forecast finds that most of its broadcast fee growth will come from reverse comp. (4) A tip of the hat to FCC Comish Michael O’Rielly for taking on the Justice Department, which has been stepping on the FCC’s turf regarding local TV ownership rules.
The lawmakers from Colorado and Wyoming say the satellite operator’s offering of distant signals from New York and Los Angeles in place of local affiliates in 12 small markets is “unacceptable” and “must end.”
Broadcasters, led by the NAB, are urging lawmakers to let the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization, or STELAR, expire on Dec. 31. STELAR is at the top of NAB’s legislative hit list in part because it has morphed into a tool that one company in particular — DirecTV — has been using to bypass stations and retransmission consent fees in up to a dozen markets. But of larger concern is that cable and satellite operators will use the legislation as a vehicle to weaken broadcasters’ retransmission consent rights.
A couple weeks before the FCC deadline for petitions to deny Nexstar’s $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune, the agency received a different sort of download on the broadcaster. HolstonConnect, a subsidiary of rural electric cooperative Holston Electric of Tennessee, has filed an FCC complaint against Nexstar, claiming it has failed to negotiate retrans consent rights in good faith.
The Sioux Falls, S.D., Fox affiliate returns after more than two years.
With the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) set to expire at the end of the year, the American Cable Association’s Ross Lieberman was optimistic there could be some retransmission consent reform included in its renewal.
The recently passed 2019 Appropriations bill — the one that avoided a second government shutdown — was a massive tome that included directing the FCC to provide a “full analysis” of its treatment of market modification petitions. Those are petitions by broadcasters or satellite operators or county officials to modify a market so that satellite viewers in a Nielsen market that crosses state lines can get local news and sports from TV stations from another Nielsen market in their own state instead.
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?
TDS Telecom has complained to the FCC about Nexstar and asked its subs to do the same in an online video. TDS Telecom subs in Indiana and Tennessee lost access to Nexstar stations in Indiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah and Nevada on Jan. 1 over what TDS CEO Jim Butman said was an unreasonable demand for an “up to 129%” retransmission consent rate increase.
WUSA in Washington, D.C., WVEC in Norfolk, Va., and WGRZ in Buffalo, N.Y., have returned to the Verizon Fios lineup.
Nexstar Media Group, currently winding through the approval process for its $6.4 billion purchase of Tribune Media, is fighting retransmission consent battles with two small operators, TDS Telecom and Antietam Broadband, primarily over pricing disputes.