The Gray Television exec-turned-station-owner criticized the broadcast networks for their insatiable reverse comp demands. “At some point, we won’t have any incentive to take money from the cable guys [in retrans], if they want it all. And I think they want to get as close to all as they can, frankly.”
The station group is balking at renewing its affiliation with the CBS-Warner Bros. network, objecting to paying higher reverse comp and insisting on another long-term deal, according to sources. If a deal can’t be reached, streaming CW is among the options.
CEO Leslie Moonves says CBS is just beginning to get its fair share of the programming fees that cable and satellite pay out, he said. “We are watched by a lot more people than a lot of cable networks that get paid a lot more than we do. But having started from zero three years ago, we are in a very good position.”
Station groups including Belo, Gray Television, LIN Media, NexStar Broadcasting, and Sinclair Broadcast face a big problem after next year’s elections when the cash from political ads evaporates: Their revenues and cash flow could plummet as they’re forced to turn as much as half of the money they collect from cable and satellite retransmission consent agreements over to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, according to a report today from Moody’s Investors Service.
After talking for nine months on a plan in which NBC would use its clout and scale to negotiate attractive retrans deals with cable and satellite in exchange for a percentage of the revenue, there is still no agreement. But both sides say they’re confident there will be one. The problem is that there is no one-size fits-all formula.
By demanding reverse comp — essentially half of affiliates’ retrans revenue — the Big Four broadcast networks and Univision have tapped a new revenue stream that will grow from $146 million this year to $1.3 billion in 2015, according to a new analysis from SNL Kagan. But there is “good news” for affiliates forced to pay.
CEO Les Moonves says the network has been quietly making deals and that the affiliates “realize that [reverse comp] is good for them in large part because of what the network is delivering.” Most of the deals, he says, are for a fixed fee rather than a percentage. He says an agreement that includes reverse comp with a major station group is imminent.
Several station representatives come away from the meeting of Fox affiliates dismayed over the network’s continuing hard-line stance on retrans sharing. One manager said Fox repeated that it would no longer try to negotiate with the affiliate board, and reiterated that individual stations would have to agree to Fox’s price tag or risk losing their affiliation. “It sounded like a threat to me.”
Leslie Moonves, CBS president-CEO, tells analysts that the company’s retrans money should hit $250 million in two years. But he didn’t say how much it expects to get from its affiliates in reverse compensation.
The publicly traded station group is paying the networks for programming on its four ABC and five CBS affiliates.