Ninety percent of network TV affiliates and 20% of independents have opted to wrangle for retransmission consent compensation from at least one cable system in the local television market, according to a new survey.The report, released Thursday by the National Assn. of Broadcasters, found that 80.3% of all commercial TV stations have chosen the retransmission consent route. By network, 98.2% of all Fox affiliates selected retrans. The figure was 93.8 % for CBS affils, 92.7% for NBC affils, and 89.5% for ABC affils. The NAB survey sheds light on just how serious broadcasters are about being compensated for their signals. Under the retransmission consent provision included in the 1992 Cable Act, TV stations were given the option of selecting retrans — which allows them to negotiate cash payments or other forms of compensation from cable operators — or of insisting on continued carriage via the concept of “must carry.” That only 20% of independents chose retrans is not a surprise, since it was never assumed that cablers would pony up cash to carry weaker UHF channels. What remains to be seen is whether top cable companies now on record against making retrans payments of any kind will cave in when threatened with the removal of top network-affiliated stations. The NAB report noted that only 25% of TV stations are opting for retrans with every cable system in the market. That’s because some TV stations are carried by as many as 200 cable systems, and broadcasters decided in some cases that it wasn’t worth their while to negotiate retrans compensation deals, per an NAB staffer. Thus, most broadcasters opted for a combination retrans/must carry plan in which they demanded retransmission compensation from some cablers and must-carry from others, according to the NAB report. Some 850 stations were surveyed by the NAB for its report; 432 stations responded.
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