The more things change, the more they stay the same. Legacy pay-tv consumers have been the victims of ugly battles between TV networks and pay-tv distributors (cable, DBS, and telcotv providers) for quite some time. Those same battles have come to streaming with streaming TV blackouts now in play.

It’s a frustrating situation, with blackouts of both local broadcast channels and cable networks often the result, as the two parties fight over
money, specifically the amount of licensing fees to carry those network signals. In a first, the FCC recently intervened in one of these disputes with a
fine for a TV broadcast group, citing bad faith negotiations.

One implication for consumers with these battles is rising costs for traditional pay-TV. That’s one factor which has led to the rise of an alternative to traditional pay-TV, streaming TV. Consumers have been turning to this new world of app-based TV where new players like Netflix, Roku, Amazon, and Disney+, among many others are the dominant force.

The new distributors in streaming TV include Roku, Amazon, Apple TV and others. They have platforms in tens of millions of homes that are the gateway to apps for streaming TV. Apps are the ‘new’ channels. But guess what? Streaming TV blackouts of apps are now becoming a reality.

roku tv inerface
Roku TV interface (Source: Roku)

The latest example includes Comcast/NBCU’s streaming app Peacock and other NBC channels/apps. In a dispute with Roku over carriage of the Peacock app, Comcast/NBCU is threatening to pull all NBCU owned apps off of the Roku platform. In effect, a streaming TV blackout of NBC apps, including apps for local broadcast channels in select markets. Sound familiar? The dispute is expected to come to a head this weekend.

It’s not the only such dispute. AT&T/WarnerMedia’s new HBO Max app is also absent from Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms, as the two sides negotiate a carriage agreement. As usual, the two sides blame each other, saying the other is negotiating in bad faith.

It’s not a good sign, particularly when you consider negotiations to avoid streaming TV blackouts are more complicated than just determining licensing fees. They now include things like revenue sharing for advertising and access to ad inventory.

Here we go again.

Update: Roku and Comcast were able to reach an agreement for the Peacock app on Roku and avoid any app blackouts. It’s another indication of how the streaming TV market is experiencing conditions similar to the legacy pay-TV market, as these blackout threats often lead to a deal being reached at the last hour.

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