2019 on Track to Record Number of TV Blackouts, Says ATVA

WASHINGTON—The American Television Alliance (ATVA) last week dubbed 2019 the “worst year ever” for TV blackouts related to retransmission consent negotiations between TV broadcasters and MPVDs.

“Consumers have lost billions of dollars and have been used as pawns,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.

For the first seven months of the year, TV blackouts have totaled 213, which ties the total for 2017.

ATVA, a coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite and telephone companies and independent programmers, pointed to a couple of ongoing disputes, which have cut off local TV to subscribers, to underscore the scope of the blackouts.

On July 16, Meredith Corp. pulled its stations in 12 markets from DISH Network, leaving millions of satellite TV subscribers out in the cold, ATVA said.

Nexstar Media Group, too, has pulled 125 stations in about 100 cities around the country from DIRECTV, U-Verse and DIRECTV Now, leaving millions of subscribers without access, it said.

“Congress is right to be looking at our outdated video laws, because the blackout crisis is reaching an epic proportion, and we don’t expect it to stop until Congress does something about it,” said Duffy.

Currently, Congress is considering the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR), which ATVA supports. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has advocated for reforming retransmission consent.

“Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR so rural America can continue receiving all their broadcast channels, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition,” said Duffy.

ATVA released annual totals for blackouts related since 2010. Together, they total more than 1,000. The yearly totals are:

  • 213 blackouts in 2019
  • 165 blackouts in 2018
  • 213 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010
Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.