TV Blackouts Skyrocket in 2019, Making it Worst Year Ever

Jul 17, 2019

Latest Outage Ties Annual Record with 5 Months to Go

Screens Go Dark for DISH Network Customers in 12 Markets, 18 States

Washington, D.C. – Meredith Corporation caused a massive TV blackout on July 16, 2019, pulling its signal from millions of DISH Network customers in 12 television markets in 18 states.   Meredith’s blackout of DISH customers brings 2019’s blackout total to 213 only seven months into the year, tying the 1-year record set in 2017.  In addition to Meredith’s blackout of DISH Network customers, Nexstar is currently blacking out millions of DIRECTV, U-verse and DIRECTV Now customers, in approximately 100 cities across the U.S., denying access to 125 local stations.  Consumers were blacked out 165 times in 2018 while broadcasters collected $10.1 billion in retrans fees, up from $9.3 billion in 2017.

“Congress is right to be looking at our outdated video laws, because the blackout crisis is reaching an epic proportion and we don’t expect it to stop until Congress does something about it,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Consumers have lost billions of dollars and have been used as pawns.  It is time to bring our nation’s ancient video laws in line with the reality of today.”

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. 

ATVA strongly supports the reauthorization of STELAR and bipartisan momentum continues to build to extend the legislation.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) recently said STELAR is “must-pass” legislation, while  Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has called retransmission consent a “racket.” 

“Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR so rural America can continue receiving all their broadcast channels, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition,” added Duffy.

The 1992 Cable Act first established the regulatory regime known as retransmission consent.  Retransmission consent fees are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels.  If demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters pull their signals.   A cable or satellite operator is not allowed to provide subscribers a broadcaster’s signal without permission, which allows broadcasters to use the threat of blackouts and actual blackouts to extort higher fees – fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.

TV Blackout Crisis: Over 1,000 Blackouts since 2010 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.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S.

  • 213 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.