Paramount Global Directly Threatens Local TV Services

Paramount Global is using its latest Fubo TV negotiation to offer an untenable deal to affiliates and reset the entire retransmission consent landscape. The FCC’s response should be obvious: Make everyone play by the same rules.

Hank Price

As cord cutting surges, panic among the major media companies continues to grow. Poor earnings, heavy debt and falling stock prices have created an overwhelming wave of bad news with no good answers.

Having run out of ideas, the networks are turning to the three things they do best: cutting expenses, laying off employees and demanding more money from their affiliates.

A proud leader in network greed is Paramount Global, which is using the latest Fubo TV negotiation to not just pick affiliate pockets but turn them inside out.

During recent discussions with the CBS Affiliate Board, Paramount offered a new Fubo TV deal some call “untenable.” The background story is that Paramount lowered its offer to less than affiliates are receiving now. Adding insult, Paramount is reported to have also said “take it or leave it” with no room for compromise.

The Paramount abuse of affiliates goes beyond Fubo TV. The company is trying to reset the entire retransmission consent landscape. The Fubo deal will set a precedent for every future vMVPD negotiation. This matters, because without a reasonable share of retransmission dollars, few stations would be able to continue producing high quality local news and other critical services.


At last report, many local station owners had not succumbed to Paramount Global’s greedy demands and elected to go dark on Fubo TV, but in another outrage, Paramount is said to now be running a direct network feed with no local content in markets where affiliates have not accepted its ultimatum.

If the CBS affiliates cave to Paramount, it will not only affect their vMVPD contracts, but every other future retransmission negotiation with every other national network.

Paramount can play the bully because outdated FCC rules mean vMPVDs are not subject to the same regulations as cable and satellite. Owners of over-the-air networks can legally negotiate directly with the internet cable providers, cutting local stations out of the process. That’s why CBS affiliates have so little bargaining power in the Fubo TV negotiation.

Facing what many see as oppression, affiliates are dismayed that the FCC is sitting on the sidelines in an area that is clearly its responsibility. More dismay comes from the fact that the solution is so obvious and so simple: Make everyone play by the same rules.

The FCC has been foot dragging this issue for years. That’s hard to understand because this is not a partisan issue. It is about simply leveling the playing field. Giving one side an unfair advantage in a business negotiation is nonsensical.

I can tell you from personal experience that networks spend far more time thinking about stock price than about the local communities their affiliates serve, so there are real long-term consequences if the FCC allows Paramount to continue playing the bully on a tilted field.

Last week, TVNewsCheck Editor at Large Harry Jessell pointed out that FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel claims to support localism. If she is serious about that, now is the time for her to take action to protect the very viability of local service by amending regulations written when the idea of vMVPDs did not exist.

If the FCC remains on the sideline, it seems to me every general manager has a responsibility to lobby their local senators and members of Congress to pressure the commission to do the right thing. Hopefully the NAB, which is world class when it comes to lobbying, will lead the charge.

It cannot be pointed out too often that retransmission fees fund local news, emergency weather, local programming and other critical services. I can think of no higher priority than protecting those services in every community.

Bottom line, Paramount Global is trying to control local television services across our nation. If Paramount is successful, you can be sure every other network will follow, so the stakes are very high. That is why Chairwoman Rosenworcel must act now.

Hank Price spent 30 years leading television stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett while concurrently building a career in executive education. He is the author of Leading Local Television and two other books.

Comments (3)

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metrojoe says:

March 6, 2023 at 9:14 am

The FCC has their head in the sand on so many issues facing broadcasters. The longer they do nothing, the more the damage to local TV and Radio stations, The solutions are simple, just realize we are in the 21st Century not the 1960s and 70s when most of the regulations were made!

tvn-member-2551180 says:

March 6, 2023 at 10:55 am

Does ABC, NBC and FOX include all of their affiliates in their vMPVD deals?

pbo says:

March 6, 2023 at 7:57 pm

Am I the only one willing to call BS on this article? Hank, the networks make big money on advertising, that’s where they’ve always gotten their money. Once you all started ripping off the various providers who build billion dollar networks to transit your broadcasts the fleecing of the customers started. You all continue to demand more and more $$ for your content not happy with the billions of $$ you’ve been getting in advertising likely because you are trying to pay too much for content (read sports teams). Your excessive demands then force the satellite, cable and streaming providers (who you should be paying BTW to get your signal to the customers) to raise their fees to us customers.

The customer has no way to complain to you directly. I for one am happy to see things like this finally happening. You’ve all priced yourselves out of the market long ago and it’s taken this long for the dominoes to start falling. Happy to see Bally Sports going backrupt and now this. Maybe, just maybe, the ultimate customers (us viewers) will finally get a break from the greed. Way to go FubuTV, thanks for getting Paramount to agree to this. Here’s to hoping the rest follow suit.