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100 million OTA households rely on LPTV

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, a group formed to advocate for LPTV rights in the upcoming spectrum incentive auction, said last week it has developed a new statistical model for total over-the-air (OTA) viewership that increases the number to potentially 80 million to 100 million households.

The LPTV group said its new “total” OTA model contrasts with the standard NAB/Nielsen “exclusive” model. The new measurement is based on an estimate of the number of MVPD homes with over-the-air-receiving TV sets.

“By using the Total-OTA model, the Coalition can estimate as many as 81-100 million potential OTA viewers,” wrote Mike Gravino, director of the LPTV group. “This is done by assuming that 50 percent of all DBS-MVPD subscribers also use an antenna to receive local broadcast television programming.

“Since the DBS-MVPD does not publicly report the local-in-local service subscriber numbers, the Coalition, from practical field-experience of its members, has chosen the 50 percent figure. The variations from a low of 81 million to a high of 100 million total potential OTA viewers is based on using the NAB research of exclusive-OTA of 19.3 percent to various FCC estimates.”

Gravino wrote his new estimate to Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, for the consideration by Congress of reauthorization of STELA legislation and how it will interact with the incentive spectrum auctions.

“Within that rulemaking, the FCC is considering how the surviving LPTV/TV translators, and the hundreds of national programming channels they air and serve, may be accommodated by both the cable/Telco-MVPD and DBS- MVPD,” Gravino wrote. “What this really brings up is that a comprehensive new legal structure needs to be put forth in the post-auction operating environment, with STELA as a part of it.”

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) estimates that just under 20 percent of the 299 million U.S. residents are in over-the-air-only households, the coalition said. The LPTV group wants Congress to think of that 100 million “potential” OTA audience when it considers how to regulate the video marketplace.

“We implore the Subcommittee to view STELA reauthorization from a total marketplace view point, rather than just one discrete law with no regard to the overall post incentive spectrum auction marketplace,” Gravino wrote. “As many as 100 million of our viewers and your constituents are counting on it.”

STELA, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010, renewed the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004, which governs the retransmission of broadcast television content by satellite companies. The act renewed statutory licenses that allow satellite TV ompanies to retransmit broadcast stations to their customers for five years.
The licenses had been set to expire at the end of May 2010, and the bill also included measures to modernize and simplify licensing processes and encourage satellite providers to make more local content available.

Provisions set to expire on May 31, 2010 were extended to Dec. 31, 2014, and new provisions are scheduled to sunset on Dec. 31, 2014.