Consumer in the middle: Broadcasters take retrans fight to public at new website

Broadcasters and multichannel service providers are playing a game of retransmission monkey-in-the-middle, with consumers as the monkeys.

For broadcasters, it's becoming increasingly apparent that retransmission fees from cable operators are no longer pocket change; they pay the bills.

"Broadcasters are going to be able over time to increase the fees they're getting because of the importance of the programming that's being supplied," Robin Flynn, a senior analyst with SNL Kagan said during a wide-ranging "executive session" with TVNewsCheck's Harry Jessell.

While the broadcasters aren't yet up to scale--nor do they deserve to be--with programmers like ESPN (naturally, owned by the parent company of a broadcaster), they "have a point" about demanding more from cable operators for their programming, Flynn said. They're also starting "just starting to get cash from DBS," she said.

As if to prove that point, KVIA-TV in the El Paso, Texas-Las Cruces, N.M. market is warning viewers that DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) customers "are in danger of losing KVIA programming" because of an impasse over retrans fees. "We are asking DirecTV to pay our station but a small fraction of what DirecTV pass less viewed cable networks," the station said.

The NAB, meanwhile, is taking its fight to the public via a new website--KeepMyTV.org--that is "aimed at educating and empowering viewers during carriage negotiations between broadcast TV stations and pay TV providers."

For more:
- see this story (sub. req.)
- El Paso Times has this story
- and see this story

Related articles:
Retransmission woes: Georgia station warns viewers of potential problems
Consumer groups want protection from broadcaster-cable retrans squabbles

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