Update: Tis The Season for TV Blackouts: Consumers Brace for Year-End Blackouts of Live Sports and Holiday Programming

Dec 31, 2018

All-Time Blackouts Top 1,000 With No End in Sight
Broadcasters Pocket $10.1 Billion for ‘Free’ TV in 2018

Washington, D.C.  Broadcasters across the country are threatening to blackout millions of consumers on the eve of College football bowl games, pro football playoff games, and holiday programming.  Live televised football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to an analysis by the American Television Alliance (ATVA).

Broadcasters are threatening to blackout millions of consumers before December 31, 2018:

  • TEGNA is threatening to blackout over 1 million Verizon Fios customers in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Norfolk, VA and Buffalo, NY, according to recent public reports. 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 potential blackout could also impact upcoming pro football playoff games.
  • TV station owner Nexstar is threatening to blackout American Cable Alliance (ACA) member TDS, a small cable provider in several small and rural markets. The Nexstar signals go dark just ahead of college bowl matchups, including Kentucky vs. Penn State.  Nexstar has many similar ongoing disputes with other small cable operators. Other broadcasters are also threatening smaller operators with retransmission consent blackouts..
  • Tribune Broadcasting is threatening six million Charter Communications’ Spectrum customers with a blackout that could prevent TV viewers from seeing live sporting events including pro football playoff games.Tribune is also threatening to pull its WGN America cable signal, which would impact 14 million consumers.

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 137 times in 2018, collecting $10.1 billion in retrans fees, up from $9.3 billion in 2017.

“Tis the season for broadcaster blackouts.  Broadcasters are notorious for deliberately targeting live sports and other must-see TV at the end of the year.  Following a record year for blackouts in 2017, the blackout crisis continued to affect millions of TV viewers across the country.  This is one issue that is attracting bipartisan support and should be on the agenda for Congress next year.  The situation will continue to deteriorate for TV viewers until Congress and the FCC take action to protect consumers,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.

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.

  • 137 blackouts in 2018 (And counting)
  • 213 blackouts in 2017 (A New Record)
  • 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.