Members Overwhelmingly Call Out Their “Take It Or Leave It” Approach
PITTSBURGH, December 13, 2017 – The American Cable Association has released key survey findings on what ACA members experience on the front lines of retransmission consent negotiations with corporate broadcasters. The results are not pretty: The prevailing sentiment is that broadcasters use their market power to bully small and medium-sized cable operators into lopsided deals that hurt consumers.
Seventy-six percent of survey respondents stated that broadcasters employ a “take it or leave it” approach to retrans negotiations. “…This is essentially not a negotiation – it is an agreement forced on us,” offered one respondent. Another characterized retransmission consent negotiations as “extreme bullying and take it or leave it attitude.”
Cable operators report that broadcasters use retrans negotiations to demand huge rate hikes and force unwanted channels into program lineups. To make matters worse, cable operators are concerned that their customers often blame them for these rate hikes and unpopular channels, when in fact it is the broadcasters who dictate how much customers are forced to pay and which channels and networks must be carried.
“When we asked our members to share their top objective during retrans matters, nearly three quarters said that they wanted to keep prices down for their customers,” said Matthew M. Polka, President and CEO of the American Cable Association. “Yet time and time again, corporate broadcasters don’t negotiate fairly – or at all – and consumers are left holding the bag.”
Broadcasters generally extract the highest per-subscriber fees from the smallest cable operators and their customers, and their demands keep escalating. SNL Kagan projects that these fees will cost U.S. consumers and satellite and cable operators $11.6 billion by 2022, up from $8.6 billion in 2017, a 35 percent increase in just five years. Retrans fees are the fastest growing part of consumers’ monthly cable bills.
When asked about the future of retransmission consent negotiations, 63 percent of survey respondents said they were concerned that if the process stays the same, it will harm their customers. “…This is unsustainable and consumers will lose in the end,” stated one cable provider.
These findings further shed light on broadcasters’ bad behaviors, which ACA has been highlighting each week through its TV Ransom campaign to call out broadcasters’ reckless, greedy, pushy, ruthless and spiteful behaviors when it comes to retrans matters.
Currently, hundreds of local cable operators across the country are attempting to negotiate with a handful of corporate media conglomerates that own most of the local TV station affiliates for ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. This process pits ACA’s small and mid-sized cable operator members, who serve rural Americans and smaller urban markets, against huge corporations with no stake or ties to these local communities.
ACA conducted an online survey from November 8-15, 2017, which received 131 responses. Download the survey executive summary here.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/ACA Member Retrans Survey Executive Summary FINAL