ACA’s quest to have the FCC reform retrans consent rules got a healthy dose of support this week from more than 55 cable companies, national organizations and programmers. Among those filing comments with the Commission was the NCTA, which stopped short of fully supporting everything the small cable op group wants. But NCTA did agree that "the time is ripe for a reform of the network non-duplication rule." The rule permits a local broadcast station to bar a cable op from offering network programming from a more distant station. New video entrants BellSouth jumped on the ACA bandwagon. "It is now evident that local affiliates of the ‘Big 4’ television networks and perhaps others will be taking a more blatant ‘pay or drop us’ stance in the next round of retransmission consent negotiations later this year, potentially demanding as much as $1 per subscriber per month and perhaps more, as a quid pro quo for carriage," the RBOC said. (There was no filing from Verizon, which has asked broadcasters to help it fight the video franchise process, or SBC.) Sunflower Broadband reported that 1 broadcaster in its market has already made cash requests of $2 per month per sub. EchoStar, which had a public battle with Viacom last year, supports ACA’s petition-calling on the FCC to make sure that any changes to law apply as equally as possible to all multichannel providers. Overbuilder WideOpenWest voiced its support, saying broadcasters "have made it clear that they will force us to charge an additional $5 to $6 per sub per month for basic cable, to cover new demands of cash for carriage." Programmers who submitted filings include Court TV, which complained that new cable nets receive huge carriage commitments based on their related broadcast networks. "For example, Fox launched FX with a rate card at least twice as high as was warranted based on the industry averages; FX reached 20mln subs in its 1st year in business due to retrans consent. Conversely, Court TV reached 20mln subs only after its 5th year in business," the programmer said, noting that FX’s rate card is more than double Court’s though the 2 have "comparable ratings." The Big 4 broadcasters, of course, oppose the ACA petition. "Although ACA argues that its requested rule changes are ‘tweaks’ to the retrans consent process, the requested changes are nothing short of an entirely unwarranted retraction of the retransmission consent rules," Disney said.

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