Perry Sook sees retrans message in election results


As the intrepid pioneer who blazed the trail for broadcasters to collect retransmission consent payments from cable systems, Nexstar Broadcasting CEO Perry Sook is pretty much always asked about retrans in his quarterly conference calls. On Wednesday the question came from an analyst who was still miffed at being without Fox in his own home for half of October.

Here is the exchange between Jim Boyle of Gilford Securities and Sook:

Boyle – “Do you believe that the current retransmission consent back-and-forth is broken like the other side says. And since I was one of the three million subscribers who was just held hostage by two very large media companies that didn’t seem to budge or care about us three million as high-profile programming disappeared for two-plus weeks, do you think the FCC or Congress are going to get involved, or do you think this just happened between two very stubborn folks?”

Sook – “Well, I obviously can’t comment on Fox or Cablevision. I can tell you that of our 213 retransmission agreements we have successfully reached consensus and signed agreements for renewals last year and this year with all but a dozen of those, and those are agreement we’re negotiating with now no outages. But I think, again, from my perspective the Congress created this act in 1992 – and it was the ‘fair competition act,’ where we were given the opportunity to negotiate for retrans. And I think Congress intended it to be a free market negotiation.

And I think if anything, last night’s election said loudly to me that the American people are expressing a strong preference for less government intervention and less government invasion into their professional and personal lives. So, I don’t think the system is broken. There are always alternatives when one provider and one distributor can’t get along. And I think that it will continue to be a free market negotiation. There may be some high-profile spats from time to time, but I think that, you know, I saw a recent research piece that more people were denied access to cable due to power outages than due to retransmission consent disputes in the last five years. So, while anything that happens on Long Island is going to be big news, I do think that those kinds of disputes resulting in service interruptions are probably the exception more than the rule. But again, as we said in 2005, if we don’t feel that we’re being dealt with fairly then, you know, there should be no presumption of continued carriage of the signal absent an agreement.”

Later in the call Sook added that he believes Congress has higher priorities than taking up new retransmission consent legislation.

RBR-TVBR observation: What’s particularly interesting is that Nexstar has never run into a second situation of having its station(s) pulled from a particular cable system. Once it got past the “hell no, we’ll never pay for broadcast television” stance and established that free is no longer an option, Nexstar has been able to renew its retrans agreements without any disruption of its stations being delivered to local cable subscribers.