NAB battles one-sided blackout proposal


According to the National Association of Broadcasters, it would damage their business if they are required to honor a congressionally-mandated sports blackout rule which can be activated by teams, while MVPDs in the same market are allowed to ignore the blackout. It has filed comments with the FCC opposing an effort to make that possible.

NAB says that the big push is coming from the Sports Fan Coalition, which is said to receive funding from MVPD interests including Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

Central to the NAB argument is the damage that would be done to the FCC mandate to promote localism as high quality sports programming migrates away from free over-the-air TV to services that charge a price to tune in. The blackout rule, argued NAB, goes hand-in-hand with non-duplication and syndicated program exclusivity rules.

In its filing, NAB wrote, “None of these rules creates exclusivity on their own. Instead, they merely prevent pay TV operators from circumventing the exclusivity agreements through technology and the distant signal compulsory license on which these operators rely. Advertisers on local broadcast stations expect – and pay for – this exclusivity. If the Commission were to curtail broadcasters’ ability to enforce that exclusivity, it would weaken broadcasters’ capacity to attract advertising, thereby reducing their ability to pay for popular programming generally and to invest in local programming specifically.”

NAB said that absent the rules, “fewer sports events would be accessible to all viewers, as sports fans would be required to pay for televised access to local games because those games would no longer be available free, over-the-air.” It concluded, “Broadcasters understand and sympathize with fan frustration over sports blackouts. Ideally, no blackouts would ever occur. But elimination of the FCC’s rules would not solve the problem, as Congress has codified sports leagues’ rights to blackout home games.”

The full NAB filing can be read here.