Broadcasters Are to Blame for Skyrocketing Retrans Fees and Record Number of TV Blackouts, Says ATVA

Jul 24, 2019

Washington, D.C. –The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released the following statement blaming broadcasters for the record number of television blackouts in 2019 and skyrocketing retransmission consent fees:

“Broadcasters are in need of a history lesson on who is really to blame for TV blackouts and the underlying issue of skyrocketing retransmission consent fees, which have been the fastest rising part of pay-TV bills for over a decade. The 1992 Cable Act enabled local broadcasters, then the primary source of programming, to withhold their signals from the local cable company – though sponsors of that antiquated law promised blackouts would not occur. Fast forward to today, when consumers enjoy an almost infinite number of programming sources from a myriad of pay-TV providers, and the broadcasters have the gall to allege that an all-too-real (and ongoing) glut of blackouts is manufactured. Rather than using a calculated political pivot to deflect blame and preserve their “special” status enshrined in current law, broadcasters should stop demanding unacceptable price increases for channels with continually declining viewership. Consumers should no longer have to pay more for what they are watching less.”

Skyrocketing Retrans Fees Lead to More TV Blackouts As Viewership Declines

  • In the past three weeks, broadcasters have blacked out millions of cable and satellite consumers, bringing the 2019 blackout total to 230, breaking the previous record of 213 set in 2017.      
  • Since 2006, retrans fees have gone from about $200 million, to $10.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 4,950 percent.   
  • In the past 10 years, primetime viewership of the big four broadcast networks has declined by 52 percent, according to Nielsen.     

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts:  

  • 230 blackouts in 2019
  • 165 blackouts in 2018 
  • 213 blackouts in 2017 
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy. 

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.