The CBS/TimeWarner Cable/WFLX vs DISH retrans feuds got me thinking.
If your local television station has been removed from cable or satellite, and asks you to call your pay TV provider and complain, do not do it. Unless of course you don’t mind being a pawn for the station’s owners who are actually using you, the viewer they so care about, as leverage so they wrestle a higher monthly fee from every cable/satellite TV subscriber, that you and every other customer pay trough your bill – for something the TV stations give away for free.
The so-called retransmision consent fee, a.k.a. retrans fee, is what broadcast stations are allowed to charge Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish, DirecTV etc. for the privilege of letting you watch them via cable or satellite, and not with an over-the-air antenna. The retrans fee comes out of your bill every month. Actually, the majority of your cable bill goes to cable channel owners whether you like them, watched their channels, or not. Don’t watch ESPN? You’re still paying almost $6 a month, $72 a year, for it. Don’t care for ABC Family? Oh well, that would be $1 this month, and $12 for the year. Thanks. Of course don’t forget, you’re paying a second time by being bombarded with ads –
44 16 minutes of them in an hour on average.
Your local TV stations’ owners are now in the same game as cable channels after the FCC lifted the restrictions not too long ago. They want you to pay them once by watching advertising, and a second time by taking the retrans fee from your cable bill every month. In South Florida for example, WSFL-TV, a crappy third-rate TV station that airs 6 hours of Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, and Bill Cunningham a day allegedly gets between $0.20 and $0.25 from each cable/satellite subscriber, per month. CBS is said to be already at or near $1 for its affiliate TV stations like WFOR. And the FOX network now demands its affiliate stations, like WSVN, either pay it $0.25-$0.50 in retrans fees for each cable subscriber they get or find another network to partner with.
Some TV execs have stated publicly that they want to get retrans fees closer to what ESPN charges. Research firm SNL Kagan estimates that by 2018, a mere 5 years from now, broadcast TV stations in the US will net $6,052.2 billion a year from retrans fees alone. For 2012 that figure is at $2,3 billion and for 2013 it’s projected to cross $3billion dollars.
So in another couple of years it isn’t inconceivable to predict that TV stations like WFOR, WSVN, WPLG and WTVJ alone could be getting about $2-$4 each per month from your bill. That’s anywhere from $96 to $192 per year just for just the Big 4 broadcast stations in your market. For comparison Netflix costs $8/month or $96 a year, and gives you unlimited streaming of TV shows and movies without commercials, and on pretty much any device you want. Or Amazon Prime, which for $79/year gets you free streaming à la Netflix of 41,000 titles, free 2-day shipping, and even borrowing Kindle books for free.
So instead of being a pawn, and helping TV station owners suck more money out of you, call your cable provider and tell them you support them. Then call your local TV station, or better yet also leave them a comment on Facebook when they beg you to call the big, bad cable company and ask them why they want to charge you more and more money for something they are otherwise giving away for free to anyone with an antenna?