New Year Hangover: Broadcasters Blackout Millions of TV Viewers

Jan 1, 2019

College Bowl Games, Rose Parade Impacted

Broadcasters Pocket $10.1 Billion for ‘Free’ TV in 2018

 Washington, D.C.  According to an American Television Alliance Analysis (ATVA) of publicly available reports, consumers faced up to 70 year-end blackouts on the eve of College football bowl games, pro football playoff games, and holiday programming.  Broadcasters pulled the plug on millions of consumers across the country:

  • TEGNA blacked out over 1 million Verizon Fios customers in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Norfolk, VA and Buffalo, NY.  TEGNA is proposing a substantial rate increase that could force a blackout of highly anticipated college football bowl games, including the New Year’s Day matchup between Kentucky and Penn State.  The blackout could also impact upcoming pro football playoff games.

Broadcasters shattered the record for the most TV blackouts in a single calendar year in 2017, intentionally taking down signals from cable and satellite customers a staggering 213 times last year.  Consumers have been blacked out 140 times in 2018, collecting $10.1 billion in retrans fees, up from $9.3 billion in 2017.

“Talk about a hangover, broadcasters gave America a big blackout on New Year’s Day,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Millions of American TV viewers woke up this morning looking for football and local news and found a dark screen.  This situation will continue to deteriorate until Congress and the FCC take action to fix this problem for consumers.”

Retransmission consent fees (“retrans fees”) are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) make to broadcasters to carry their TV channels. The rules governing our video marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated in the 1992 Cable Act. These rules were written at a time when most consumers had only one choice for pay TV service and the internet was still in its infancy.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 Breaks Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake in Billions from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 140 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.