Retrans Redux!

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Retrans Redux!

The National Association of Broadcasters says … and says … and says that the current retransmission consent process is just peachy. (Try Googling “NAB statement on retrans” and you’ll get 16,700+ results.) Don’t listen to the MVPDs whining about fees, the public-airwave squatters say. Heck, MVPDs are just going to manufacture crises to sway the FCC and Congress.

Never mind the actual money involved.  Just because SNL Kagan has (again) raised its retrans revenue projection (to a mere $9,800,000,000 by 2020), there’s no reason for MVPDs to whine. I mean really, what’s almost $10 billion for “free” TV?

How did this come to be?  Well, back in 1992, the over-the-airheads persuaded a bunch of Congressfolk that, because it was, you know, tough out there, they should be compensated just like ESPN, or C-SPAN, or CNN, but for, you know, more than those “just cable” networks. The fact that they had all of that spectrum in exchange for providing a public service was just so much icing on the cake.

At first, MVPDs balked and said, why not go start a cable channel and we’ll pay a few cents for that? So cable subs got a bigger bundle with FX, ESPN2 and more and more channels.  Then the over-the-airheads, since they’d gotten rid of the “must carry” rules that cable operators “must” carry any broadcaster that asks … oh, wait, they still do!

But the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act says all the leverage belongs to the broadcaster: (1) If you don’t want us, you have carry us; (2) If you do want to carry us, you have to compensate us.  Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Well just ask the viewers who have been caught with a blackout that isn’t their fault … like Mediacom subs in Media General territory on the night of baseball’s All Star Game … while simultaneously paying higher and higher fees for the programming that they can get only when MVPDs meet the broadcasters’ demands. Hey, folks, MVPDs all know you’re paying enough already (or why else all the over-the-top semi-solutions to a big bundle) and they really, really don’t want to raise rates (too much).

The FCC is, per a clause in the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014, supposed to take a close look at the situation. Would be nice if the Federal Confusion Commission did so.  (Hey, Tom, we’re talking at you!)

Other Items of Interest:

My new book “The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media” continues! Go here to read the latest chapter or here to read it from the beginning!

Ah, “cord-cutting” is so passé.  We now have mini-bundle choices in order to shave that cord.  As we all well know, the cord ain’t going anywhere.  That infrastructure is sure to continue evolving and getting better and all the margin is already in that cord.  The gnashing of teeth was a nice sideshow for a while. Just imagine, all those contentious cable distribution agreements might just disappear as everyone goes directly to the consumer … someday, maybe (but probably not … sensible subscription models always work best).

Nothing happened in Sun Valley?  That’s news!

The reported DISH/T-Mobile combination looks shakier (anyone surprised?) as rumors abound that a deal won’t happen.  Now, after being snookered by Dish which set straw bidders to the tune of $3.3b savings by following the wireless auction rules, I wonder if the FCC can change the rules to fix the flaws … and then make the changes retroactive.  Does that sound fair?

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