Tilting rules governing retrans negotiations in favor of cable and satellite could accelerate the migration of sports programming to the pay media, NBC affiliates say in visit to the FCC last week.
NBC Affils Warn FCC Of Sports Migration
Just days after the Four Four — NCAA basketball semi-finals and finals — appeared on cable rather than broadcasting for the first time, a group of NBC affiliates visited the FCC and warned that other top sports programming could migrate from free to pay TV.
If the FCC adopts regulation “that impairs, impedes or handicaps the retransmission consent negotiating ability of local broadcast stations to the competitive advantage of national pay TV distribution platforms, it would only serve to assist and accelerate the migration,” they told FCC officials, according to the official record of the April 8 meeting.
“Not only would such a result be competitively unfair to local broadcast stations and their broadcast networks, it would be contrary to the interests of all viewers and, in particular, it would deprive all access to the nation’s top-rated sports and entertainment programming by those economically unable to subscribe to a pay TV service.”
Under a congressional mandate, the FCC last September opened a rulemaking to consider regulating retrans negotiations. In that proceeding, pay TV operators have been arguing that the commission’s current hands-off approach is unfair and leads to blackouts of broadcast programming on cable and satellite systems when negotiations reach an impasse.
The affiliates also argued that it would be unfair to regulate retrans negotiations while not regulating negotiations between pay TV operators and regional sports networks, whose demands for carriage fees dwarf those of “significantly more popular local broadcast stations.”
The affiliates cited reports that Fox’s YES network (home of the New York Yankees) is now asking cable systems for $6 per sub per month.