[opendtv] Re: Stating What Is Now Obvious

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 09:05:45 -0500

At 10:18 AM -0800 12/13/06, John Willkie wrote:
With all the caterwauling on this list about "broadcasters abandoning OTA" and "maintaining the NTSC franchise" and other such rot, and then endlessly repeating it, it's funny how nobody has mentioned the major change in the seas and winds.

Every three years, broadcasters and cable companies either renegotiate "retransmission consent" for the cable firms to carry the broadcaster's programming, or the broadcaster exercises "must carry."

Right idea, but factually incorrect. The length of retrans consent and must carry agreements is not set by any laws or regulations. It is negotiated. Most of these agreements have terms significantly longer than three years.

The terns are for three years, and generally last for three years, and the renewal date, which can vary a bit on retrans deals, occurs around this time.

So, a little bit of addition - for those who can accurately quote the title of broadcast publications - leads one to deduce that the current round of deals will not only cover the "NTSC franchise" but the "8-VSB" one. That is, the February, 2009 analog cut-off date will occur within the time period of most retrans deals that are being announced now.

Most retrans deals being negotiated today cover both the analog and DTV signals. We are in the middle of one such battle with the NBC affiliate (WESH) in Orlando and Cox Cable. WESH has pulled their HDTV signal, but allows carriage of the analog signal while they negotiate. The FCC regs already make it clear what happens in 2009. You can only use retrans consent or must carry for one type of signal, not both. Anything else must be negotiated. There is still significant debate about what happens in 2009 regarding image resolution. Broadcasters do not want the digital signals degraded for the analog tier, unless the full quality signal is also carried on the digital tier. The only way to do this now is via negotiation, but the broadcasters want the FCC to force cable systems not to degrade the signals. This is a back door way to keep the analog signal while gaining carriage of the DTV signal.

Oftimes, during these renewal periods, broadcasters feel that they are being slighted and they consider going to court or the FCC to halt a cable firm from dropping their channel(s).

IIRC, it's been more than a year since I've heard broadcasters doing such things.

Better listen more closely. There are all kinds of disputes, just not the huge one like losing a major network in New York.

Judging by media reports, the pendulum has swung. All over the country, CABLE firms have gone to court and the FCC in desperate attempts to keep BROADCASTERS from removing their content from cable systems when retrans negotiations break down.

One can read news reports about Sinclair (multiple markets) and Hearst-Argyle in this context, among others.

It's as if cable firms have become desperate and broadcasters have become self-assured of a peaceful world were cable firms not able to "steal" programming without compensation. I mean, it's not as if cable firms are actually able to produce programming ?

Could it be that broadcasters are "feeling their oats" about the 8-VSB world and are "acting it out" on cable firms ?

Judging by news reports, the networks have been able to negotiate beneficial agreements with cable firms in the markets where they own and operate television stations. It's the other media groups, ones that produce local-centered programming, that, by the words or cable firms and their pleadings to the FCC and court, are "squeezing" the cable firms.

I suspect that the "$50 vouchers" play into the broadcasters feeling their oats.

John Willkie

P.S. The above is "news analysis." I literally didn't speak to any broadcasters about this topic, and haven't mentioned the general issue to a broadcaster in more than a year.

Yes broadcasters are feeling their oats. They have the upper hand, and now expect that the multichannel services will collect subscriber fees for them each month. The apparent goal is $1 per month per subscriber, although the actual fees negotiated recently may be somewhat lower.

So much for Free - advertiser supported - TV...


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