ACA: 'It's always been retransmission consent'

The American Cable Association (ACA) has, over the past year, dealt with a number of issues impacting their small-medium operator members: the Comcast-NBCUniversal takeover; changes in the Universal Service Fund (USF) and even the government's attempt to quiet down commercials, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM) Act.

But one issue always bubbles back up to the top priority as it has for the 18 years the organization has been in existence.

"It's always been retransmission consent," Steve Friedman, ACA chairman and Wave Broadband COO said during an opening day address at the ACA Summit in Washington, D.C. "We need to work on reform."

The ACA has "been beating the drum on retransmission abuse" for years, Friedman said. Lately, thanks to messy public disputes between broadcasters and top 10 MSOs like Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC), the drum has become part of a marching band.

Still, the impact of retransmission consent costs on smaller operators outweighs what's happening with bigger MSOs

"Retransmission rules serve the interest of broadcasters and nobody else," Friedman said during his speech.

Colleen Abdoulah, an ACA board member and president-CEO of WOW, said the agreements small operators sign with programmers prohibit them from revealing the exact per-subscriber costs they're paying to programmers--even in making a case to the FCC.

"We can't talk about the dollars," she said during a luncheon Q&A. "We can talk about percentage increases."

Outside the FCC, there is also a slight hope that Congress might step in and listen to the organization's woes, but that hope is only slight, ACA President-CEO Matt Polka said between bites.

"I don't expect Congress to be active in retransmission this year," said Polka. After that, well, "Congress has gotten involved before; I can see that happening again," he added.

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