The U.S. video marketplace has suffered more than 60 total retransmission blackouts during the first six months of 2019 and nearly 550 in the past three and a half years, according to a new report from the American Television Alliance (ATVA), which bills itself as a consumer advocacy group.
The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government-mandated broadcast carriage or must carry, and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent. Retransmission consent fees are the payments that pay-TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels.
The blackouts occur when content providers and cable/satellite companies can’t agree on fees. Typically, the issue arises when a contract is about to expire and before major, popular events, like the Oscars, sports playoffs, etc.
As we reported, one of the blackouts earlier this year came when Nexstar, the second largest television station owner in the U.S., wanted TDS Telecom to pay up to 129% more for video content, according to TDS. The TDS Nexstar blackout coincided with NFL playoff season.
That was just one of many other retransmission blackouts we have covered in recent years.
Last week, seven small station groups, went dark on DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse in 14 cities, at a time when the NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Finals were being played.
Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR). As many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, will lose access to broadcast channels if Congress fails to reauthorize STELAR.
“This week, Congress will examine whether the video marketplace is working and here are another 550 reasons why it isn’t,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman, in a prepared statement. “The video marketplace keeps changing, but the TV blackout crisis and retrans racket that hurts consumers stays the same. In this case, one of America’s biggest broadcasters is making a mockery of station ownership restrictions by unduly controlling what ‘independent’ broadcasters are doing.”