Coalition of anti-retransmission cable programmers on Capitol Hill


It’s not so much that a group of independent cable programmers are against being paid for their wares by MVPD operators; it’s just that they think broadcast stations have an unfair advantage when it comes to negotiating carriage compensation.

The group calls itself the American Television Alliance, and its headed to Capitol Hill to plead its case with lawmakers. According to Hillicon Valley, programmers such as Outdoor Channel, Starz, Africa Channel, Retirement Living TV and the Gospel Music Channel are among its English-language members, and another programmer, Si TV, is making ATVA’s case to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

They argue that the retransmission system is broken in that carriage mandates for local broadcast television stations give them a huge leverage advantage in negotiating fees that are unavailable to small cable programmers. Their fear is that MVPDs will pay for broadcast rights by forcing ATVA members to accept lower fees.

RBR-TVBR observation: Local broadcast stations and independent cable channels have more in common than not, one would think. They tend to be in the position of negotiating a fair carriage rate with a large corporation that would rather highlight its own O&O programming. This is a challenge for the smaller operators both from a financial standpoint, and from the standpoint of even being included on an MVPD’s channel lineup.

There are two differences: Broadcasters offer critical local news and information programming, and can negotiate only within the confines of their local market. Cable channels do not offer local programming but can negotiate on a national basis. Local MVPDs have to weigh the relative value of each.

Then comes the interesting fact about ATVA – the current Capitol Hill effort seems to revolve around lesser known programmers, but if they’d like to make sure they’re treated fairly by MVPDs, they should ask them – at the ATVA meeting room table — if there is one – the ATVA website lists neither an address nor a phone number. Members of the coalition include DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner, Charter, Bright House, NTCA, ACA – surely, these MVPDs and their associations wouldn’t permit fellow ATVA members like Outdoor Channel, Starz, Africa Channel, Retirement Living TV, Gospel Music Channel and Si TV to suffer the slings and arrows of a raw deal from MVPD distribution platforms, now would they?