Even though 99 times out of 100 negotiations over retransmission consent between broadcasters and MVPDs end peacefully with no disruption of service, MVPDs continue to argue that the system is broken and continue to petition Washington DC for help. However, an executive with DirecTV told analysts he is under no illusion that the help, if it arrives, will be coming soon.
A retransmission proceeding will be on the agenda at the March FCC Open Meeting, and during a conference call, DirecTV CEO Mike White was asked to comment on the issue.
According to the Associated Press, he said broadcasters are looking to retrans income to fix what he thinks they think is a broken business model, and that they are doing it with the aid of “anomalies” that were built into the regulatory system 20 years in the past.
He’s looking for change, but not expecting it quickly. According to AP, he said, “So we are part of the coalition that believes we need to change the system. Now realistically, change comes slowly in this area in Washington, so while there is a hearing in March, or they may talk about some things, I think you are a year away before you would see those things change.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Are we the only ones who remember when most basic cable channels were relatively, if not entirely, commercial free? They made their money off retransmission fees. Back then, broadcast TV relied almost exclusively on advertising.
Now that all of the basic cablers compete intensely with broadcasters for advertising revenue, doesn’t it follow that broadcasters are entitled to the same retrans revenue stream cable channels continue to hang on to? And shouldn’t the high must-have value of the broadcast programming be reflected in the retransmission pricing?
We will take a brief moment to remind legislators and regulators of two facts. Large MVPDs are not at all interested in government intervention in negotiations when they are the ones with the upper hand against a smaller company. And they just don’t do local very well, which is one large reason why they need broadcast program streams so desperately, and why Washington must do what it can to protect local broadcast programming.