That was quick. Some 25 Hearst-owned TV stations are back on Dish Network about 14 hours after they went dark in a retransmission contract dispute. The companies didn’t disclose terms. Hearst said that it regrets the hassle for consumers and advertisers and is “pleased the interruption was brief and that our stations have been restored on Dish Network systems.” The fight hit ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, MyNetwork and independent stations in markets including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Tampa. Last night Dish General Counsel R. Stanton Dodge said that the showdown with Hearst — leading to the station black out — “is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts.” Another Dish exec, Dave Schull, said that the No. 2 satellite company “offered to keep the channels on while we try to reach a deal, but Hearst refuses to put viewers first.”
This should impress Wall Street, although perhaps not the CBS lawyers who likely will tell U.S. Supreme Court justices why it’s so important for them to block the streaming service. CEO Les Moonves told analysts this evening that by 2020 CBS should collect at least $2B a year from cable and satellite companies that want to distribute its programming — up from his previous projection of $1B by 2017. The cash will come from its O&Os as well as reverse compensation payments from affiliates that also charge pay TV distributors that carry their signals. “We’ve exceeded our target every time we’ve given you one,” Moonves says. It’s part of his campaign to persuade investors that the cash will continue to flow even if ad sales flatten or decline. One analyst asked, though, whether CBS can still hit its $2B target if the high court rejects broadcasters’ arguments that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air programming without paying them a dime. If Aereo wins, many believe, then cable and satellite companies might try to replicate the service so they, too, can avoid the rising outlays. “We will hit that number regardless of what happens with Aereo,” Moonves says. Indeed, he noted, even though he expects broadcasters to win, if they don’t then “we’re not going to be financially handicapped at all.” The companies have “a host of alternatives,” including creating their own Aereo-like streaming …
The cable giant will score some PR points next year when consumers open their monthly bills. Instead of hiking rates for “limited basic” and “digital preferred” service, Comcast will tack on a new $1.50 charge that it calls a “Broadcast TV Fee” — designed to point a finger at TV stations that demand rising retransmission consent payments. “In recent years, the cost of retransmitting broadcast television signals has increased significantly, and we want to address these more recent increases through a separate itemized charge so that they are clear to you,” the company says in a customer notice. The $1.50 charge is just the amount that Comcast is passing along to rate payers, not necessarily the whole amount of the increase in its outlays to broadcasters. Others, including Charter and AT&T U-verse, have similar fees that call attention to retransmission consent. Comcast won’t have a similar charge to highlight the rising price demands from pay TV channels.
After going dark on DISH Network last month in a dispute that carried on so far the FCC was called in to mediate, Media General has reached an agreement with the satellite company. Terms were not disclosed but the pact will affect Media General TV stations in 17 markets, which will be available to DISH subscribers as of today: Augusta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Greenville, N.C.; Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Jackson, Miss.; Mobile, Ala./Pensacola, Fla.; Florence/Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Providence, R.I.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.; Savannah, Ga.; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. and Tri-Cities, Tenn./Va.
The broadcaster’s 13 TV stations — mostly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and Texas – returned to DirecTV today after going dark on October 9. The companies indicated that they were making progress this week when the satellite company aired Fox broadcasts of the first two World Series games. News-Press & Gazette said on the KESQ website that while negotiators had honed in on a monthly rate that DirecTV would pay for the stations “the big hang-up continues to be DirecTV’s unprecedented demand for the right to stream each of our stations’ signals on the internet without paying a fair price.” No word today on the terms of the deal. DirecTV says that while it’s “pleased NPG has restored the stations, we’re equally as frustrated that they took them away in the first place.” It seized the opportunity to call on Congress to “intervene and fix this badly broken system that has enabled some stations to use viewers’ loyalty against them rather than reward them for it.” News-Press’ network affiliates include ABC outlets in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, CA; Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, CO.; Idaho Falls, ID; Columbia, MO; and El Paso, TX.
This is how Dish Network welcomes back the FCC following the federal shutdown? The satellite company filed a complaint today alleging that Media General has failed to engage in “good faith” negotiations to end the retransmission dispute that on October 1 resulted in its 18 network affiliated stations going dark on Dish. Among other things, the complaint says, “Media General failed to respond for 11 days to Dish’s last pre-blackout offer.” The satellite company wants commissioners to “push them back to the negotiating table and submit to mediation to get programming back to consumers.” Media General says it’s still reviewing the complaint and then “will respond appropriately.” Dish has said that it wanted to wait until Media General completed its merger with Young Broadcasting, which has a carriage agreement with the satellite company. “The only reason for Media General to reject that offer is to try to squeeze consumers for more money, to the tune of five times what Dish currently pays,” it said last month. The broadcaster countered that it wants to be “fairly compensated for our programming – what we seek amounts to pennies a day per subscriber.” The dispute affects nearly 13% of the 9M homes Media General reaches.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. and ATLANTA, Oct. 18, 2013 – DISH Network L.L.C. and Gray Television, Inc. announced today that they have reached an agreement to continue the retransmission of Gray TV stations in 30 markets.
“DISH and Gray worked together on behalf of customers to reach a deal,” said Sruta Vootukuru, DISH director of programming. “Together, DISH and Gray serve viewers with local news and information, as well as network programming, and that will continue under this long-term agreement.”
The contract impasse left Dish Network customers through the southeast, Ohio, and Rhode Island unable to watch Media General‘s 18 network affiliated stations — including eight NBC affiliates, eight CBS ones, and one apiece for ABC and CW. They went dark on Dish last night as the station owner and the No. 2 satellite company remained at loggerheads after a 90-day extension to their previous agreement expired. Dish has said that it wanted to wait until Media General completed its merger with Young Broadcasting, which has a carriage agreement with the satellite company. “The only reason for Media General to reject that offer is to try to squeeze consumers for more money, to the tune of five times what Dish currently pays,” it said last month. “We’re working on behalf of our customers to keep the programming at a fair price.” The broadcaster says that up to now it has “never experienced a disruption of service with any pay-TV company because of a contract impasse….All we are asking of Dish is to be fairly compensated for our programming – what we seek amounts to pennies a day per subscriber.” The dispute affects nearly 13% of the 9M homes Media General reaches.
The proposal today from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif) offers just the kinds of reforms that pay TV execs want, especially following the recent 32-day blackout of CBS-owned properties on Time Warner Cable systems. Many cable and satellite providers say that they’re virtually powerless to resist broadcasters who demand big price increases for the right to retransmit their shows. The ranking Democrat on the House Communications Subcommittee says her Video CHOICE Act would change that and ensure that pay TV subscribers aren’t ”caught in the middle of a dispute they have no control over.” Her bill would give the FCC the authority to keep local TV stations on cable or satellite systems during negotiations. The proposal would bar owners of broadcast stations from making deals that also require pay TV providers to carry the company’s cable channels. It would give subscribers the freedom to order pay TV service without broadcast channels that demand high retransmission fees. (The signals are available for free to anyone with an antenna.) The Act also calls on the FCC to study the impact of sports networks on pay TV costs in the 20 largest regional sports markets. Eshoo offered her bill ahead of her subcommittee’s hearing this week to consider extending the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act — which expires at the end of 2014 — and to renew the FCC’s power to step in to retransmission disputes if it believes at least one side isn’t negotiating in good faith.
UPDATE, 12:58 PM: Time Warner Cable denies Martin Franks’ claim that it is trying to keep CBS from doing business with new entrants. “Both our expired and proposed agreements with CBS place no restriction on their ability to sell all of their product to Netflix, Amazon, Intel or any other entity, or continue to give all of their best content away for free online, as they have to date.”
PREVIOUS, 11:42 AM: CBS EVP Martin Franks made the disclosure –which Time Warner Cable confirms — in response to questions at a meeting today called by a New York City Council subcommittee looking at the nearly week-long programming black out on TWC’s systems. No details yet on what compromises, if any, the companies are making in the dispute. It largely involves the price TWC pays for CBS-owned programming. There also was no sign in Franks’ prepared remarks of a thaw in the companies’ frosty relationship. “Please remember,” he told local lawmakers, “until now, CBS’ record of good faith successful retransmission consent negotiations was perfect…while Time Warner Cable’s record is littered with many public disputes.” He added that TWC “could easily choose to absorb these programming costs and still be very profitable.” Franks also said that the cable company wants to “hamstring our ability to do business with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and other new entrants that pose a new competitive threat to their former, …
UPDATE: Time Warner Cable says in response that it “partnered directly with the Lakers and Dodgers to cut out the expensive middleman and save our customers money in the long run. Since CBS O&O KCAL was, in fact, that middleman, it’s no surprise they disagree with our actions. We do find it ironic, however, that CBS would question moving sports off of broadcast, when they themselves announced in May that they were moving the Final Four to cable.” The cable company adds that ratings for Lakers games on TWC Sportsnet “are strong, and we just won six Emmy Awards last weekend.”
PREVIOUS, 9:09 AM: Was Time Warner Cable being hypocritical this week when it proposed to carry CBS-owned stations on an a la carte basis — which CEO Les Moonves rejected as PR “grandstanding”? The broadcaster distributed evidence today to support that view, including a class action suit filed in June that accused Time Warner Cable of abusing its distribution clout in Southern California by failing to give subscribers a choice to pay for TWC channels that offer Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers games. “Half of LA Lakers games used to be on free over-the-air TV before TWC outbid everyone for the rights for $3 billion,” CBS says. Subscribers who receive the Lakers channel now have to pay $4 a month …
DirecTV and Time Warner Cable compete with each other most of the time. But with a shared interest in holding back programming price increases, the No. 1 satellite company decided to lend moral support to its business rival which on Friday stopped offering programming from CBS-owned stations and cable channels including Showtime due to a dispute over retransmission rates. ”Just like the characters in CBS’ Under The Dome, all pay TV customers are feeling trapped and helpless as broadcasters expect them to absorb ridiculous rate increases for the exact same programming.,” DirecTV says. Noting that the company has had “its share of these battles” –including a 10-day blackout of Viacom’s channels last year – DirecTV says it applauds TWC. The satellite company also attacked CBS’ decision to bar TWC’s Internet customers from watching full episodes of programs on CBS.com. “The conduct of content companies in their efforts to extract outrageous fees from distributors and consumers may have reached a new low,” DirecTV says. CBS says that it wants a price that reflects its status as the No. 1 network, noting that TWC pays much more for cable channels including ESPN that attract far fewer viewers.
CBS chief Les Moonves couldn’t resist alluding to his tense retransmission consent negotiations with Time Warner Cable — even though he didn’t want to address the matter directly in a conference call with analysts. “We will update you when we have more news,” he said in his prepared remarks, adding that CBS will remain “resolute” as it faces a Friday deadline when its stations might go dark on TWC cable systems in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Still, he fired back at TWC’s claim that it shouldn’t pay a far higher monthly fee for shows that CBS broadcasts over the air for free. “Right now over 85% of our viewing is done through satellite, cable, or the phone companies. The remaining 15% are not the most advertiser friendly, appealing to advertising.” In his view, “he who has the most eye balls should get paid the most.” And while the average pay TV customer receives more than 100 channels “they’re watching 10 to 15 of them and we are one of them….Most everybody agrees and we are getting paid fairly in most places.” TWC and others have said that NYC viewers who lose CBS on cable might consider …
Most Wall Streeters seem to think that CBS will prevail in its effort to extract a big price increase from Time Warner Cable when they ultimately resolve their retransmission consent dispute. The fight involves CBS-owned stations that reach some 3.5M TWC homes, primarily in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. But with the companies still at an impasse, CBS could go dark in the key TWC systems this Wednesday when their current carriage deal expires. Cable and satellite companies tend to blink first in retransmission disputes. As the No. 1 broadcast network, CBS is an unusually formidable adversary. Time also may be on CBS’ side: The football season begins in September and that must-have programming could “force a solution,” RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank says. Meanwhile, TWC could be distracted by a takeover battle. (Charter Communications, with support from its largest investor Liberty Media’s John Malone, reportedly is working with Goldman Sachs on a bid.) Bank believes that CBS ultimately wants to collect $2 per month for each TWC customer its stations reach, probably a 100% increase vs the current deal. Even so, “We have to side with CBS on this one,” says Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker.
Many seemed to think so today after a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that Aereo’s streaming service can stay in business while the company defends itself against a suit by broadcasters who say that it violates their copyrights. Broadcasters were among media’s big losers on Wall Street today; for example CBS was -2.2%, Gannett was -3%, and Sinclair was -3.7%. If the courts uphold Aereo’s right to retransmit over-the-air signals without paying stations, then it could derail broadcasters’ hopes of collecting billions each year from pay TV retransmission consent fees. That’s possible, BTIG’s Richard Greenfield says: Today’s decision should cause the major networks to “accept Aereo’s legality and figure out how to deal with the implications to their business.” Considering the scope of the reasoning in the verdict, it’s “difficult to imagine how the broadcasters stand a chance of winning at trial in the District Court later this year or even how they could appeal a District Court loss to this Appellate Court.” As a result, he expects Aereo to accelerate its expansion plans — the service is up in NYC and plans to launch in 22 additional markets this year. (It tweeted last week that a Boston service will come “very, very soon.”) The analyst also says cable and satellite companies likely will now feel emboldened to resist broadcasters’ demands for high fees for their must-have programming while cable networks “look to license content to Aereo.”
Here’s another 11th hour retransmission consent agreement — not a moment too soon for Sinclair, which has its hands full with its new station acquisition deals. The broadcaster recently told DirecTV customers that “it does not appear” they’d be successful in extending their carriage deal which expires tonight. But Sinclair now says it has “a short-term extension of its existing agreement” that will “allow the parties to enter into a formal agreement.” DirecTV also says that Sinclair’s 87 stations in 47 markets will air ”without interruption as the companies continue working toward a new agreement.” A breakdown could have hit Fox especially hard: 24 of Sinclair’s stations are Fox affiliates and another 19 offer Fox-owned MyTV shows. The company also has 12 ABC stations, 16 CW, 11 CBS, 3 NBC, 1 Azteca and 1 Independent affiliate. They didn’t disclose any financial terms, but DirecTV said this month that Sinclair wanted it to to pay “more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online.” In August Sinclair and Dish went to the wire in a retransmission dispute, but reached a deal before the stations went dark. DirecTV accounts for about 21% of the more than 27M households that Sinclair reaches.
Here we go again. The biggest independent distributor of NBC programming has begun to air crawls and announcements warning DirecTV subscribers of “the possibility of a signal disruption” after November 30 when the programming carriage agreement for its 23 stations expires. “Over the past weeks, we have been in intense negotiations with DirecTV to reach a fair, market-based deal,” Gannett says. It adds that it has “never had service disruption with a major carrier” and will “work with DirecTV right up to the deadline.” DirecTV counters on its website that Gannett’s gone public “to try to get customers angry and pressure DirecTV to accept a deal that would more than double the cost of their stations.” It adds that blackout threats have become “a regrettable part of our business, as too many stations licensed to serve the public are willing to antagonize them instead.” About 20% of the 20.1M households in Gannett’s markets watch the stations’ programming on DirecTV, according to SNL Kagan data. Gannett has 12 NBC affiliates as well as six with CBS, three with ABC, and two with MyNetworkTV. Gannett’s properties include the CBS station in Washington, DC, and NBC stations in Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Cleveland, and Phoenix. Last month Gannett’s carriage negotiations with Dish Network went right to the wire, but without any disruption of service.
UPDATE, 9:10 AM: Sinclair’s angry about Dish’s “corporate greed” charge, and has fired back to “set the record straight.” The broadcaster says that the retransmission consent payments it wants for its stations “are substantially lower than the amounts Dish is paying for other far less popular channels it carries.” Broadcasters have long noted that cable and satellite companies pay less for stations carrying ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC than they do for low-rated cable channels. But distributors point out that broadcasters’ signals are worth less because they’re also available for free over the air and on Web sites such as Hulu. Sinclair adds that its negotiations with Dish “involve matters other than pricing” — noting that broadcasters are in court charging that Dish’s ad-zapping Hopper DVR infringes on their copyrights. Sinclair is urging Dish customers to switch to a service “that values Sinclair stations enough to carry them,” including DirecTV or a local cable or telco video provider.
PREVIOUS, 6:55 AM: Here we go again, another retransmission consent contract dispute between Dish Network and a broadcaster. A blackout could affect Dish customers in 45 cities where Sinclair owns or provides services to stations — including affiliates of Fox (20 stations), MyTV (18), ABC (11), CW (14), CBS (9), NBC (1) and Azteca (1). “We carry more than 1,800 local broadcast stations nationwide. Sinclair is asking for more than any other station anywhere in the country,” says Dish SVP Dave …
UPDATE, 7:30PM Wednesday: Time Warner Cable reported tonight the company has agreed to an extension of retransmission consent for Meredith TV stations through July 31. TWC said the two companies “hope to finalize an agreement before that time. We thank our customers for their patience.”
PREVIOUSLY, 7:50 AM Los Angeles time July 23: On Wednesday the cable company could lose the CBS and MyNetworkTV affiliates in Kansas City, an NBC station in Nashville, and a CBS outlet in Springfield, Mass. if the companies don’t resolve their contract dispute. The script will be familiar to anyone who has followed these retransmission consent fights, including the one that Time Warner Cable resolved last week with Hearst Television. The No. 2 cable operator says that the broadcaster wants “a price increase of over 200%, for programming that they deliver for free over the air and via the internet.” But Meredith’s KCTV in Kansas City is telling viewers that “Time Warner Cable profits by including broadcast stations like KCTV5 and KSMO in its line-up. We are asking Time Warner Cable for pennies a day. Like any other business, Time Warner Cable should pay fair market value for the ability to resell our programming for you.” Meredith seems to to have more to lose than TWC does in this showdown: Meredith shares are down 3.2% in early trading Monday, …
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