Poll finds stations split on retrans/must carry

A survey by Cable Networks Inc. of more than 300 television stations has found that at least 75% are seeking either retransmission consent or some combination of retrans and must-carry in negotiations with cable systems.

According to the poll, 54% of stations will opt for some combination of retransmission consent and must-carry, 21% will opt for retrans alone and 17% — more than three-quarters of those independents — will choose must-carry alone.

Another 8% declined to discuss their strategies.

The results, gleaned from 312 stations in the top 100 U.S. broadcast markets, are close to findings by the National Assn. of Broadcasters, which issued its own survey last month reporting that 80% of stations have chosen the retrans route (Daily Variety, July 16).

CNI, a subsidiary of Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp., said it plans to update the survey at regular intervals between now and Oct. 6, the deadline for stations to choose between must-carry — which insures continued cable carriage, without compensation — or retrans, which allows stations to negotiate payments or other considerations in exchange for its signal.

Most stations told CNI that they’ve presented requests to all local cable systems and are now awaiting responses, counter-offers and/or agreements.

According to CNI, many stations acknowledged that cash payments may be difficult to obtain and that they’ll consider alternate forms of compensation. Some top cable systems have said flatly they won’t pay retrans but have struck deals for basic services, such as ESPN2 or Fox’s basic cable network, that will result in roundabout payments to those companies.

Those seeking retrans alone are also negotiating various scenarios beyond straight cash fees, including bartered fees and channel positioning.

CNI says 71% of the stations contacted participated in the survey.

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