Retrans-related blackouts more than doubled to record 193 in 2015, report says

Blackouts related to stalled broadcast retransmission negotiations spiked to an all-time high of 193 in 2015, according to a Wall Street Journal tally.

The increase is stark -- blackouts more than doubled from 94 counted in 2014, and only eight in 2010.

The increased rancor between broadcasters and pay-TV operators comes as the latter seeks to grow revenue from broadcast retransmission licensing, while operators seek redress on rules governing negotiations from the FCC. 

Last year, SNL Kagan revised its projection for overall retrans revenue growth, upping from $9.4 billion to $9.8 billion by 2019. 

The outlook for 2016 doesn't look any better at this point. Already in the first two weeks of the year, Cordillera Broadcasting blacked out Dish Network in 11 TV markets, while Cox Communications found itself blacked out by Baton Rouge, La., NBC affiliate WVLA-TV.

Of course, trying to understand why the retrans issue has suddenly become so heated by approaching either side of the debate becomes an exercise in rhetoric. 

Broadcasters accuse operators of approaching them with a renewed aggression. "They actually want to force a disruption so they create the appearance of a crisis," Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, told the WSJ.

Ted Hearn, spokesman for the American Cable Association (ACA), gave this statement to FierceCable: "Congress and the FCC understand that the retransmission consent regime that yields nothing but consumer harm is a totally broken system. ACA is hopeful that the FCC's review of the retransmission consent good-faith bargaining rules will protect consumers from wanton blackouts and skyrocketing rate hikes by abusive TV stations whom they generously subsidize with free spectrum worth billions of dollars."

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story

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