Still unclear how broadcasters will offset fees

Broadcasters will be unable to compete for premiere sports properties without retransmission payments from cable operators, News Corp. prexy Chase Carey said Tuesday — while offering no answers as to how to apportion those additional fees between operators and consumers.

Speaking at a Hollywood Radio and Television Society forum, Carey said it’s “going to be tough” for broadcasters to hang onto sports when bidding against channels with a dual revenue stream, such as ESPN, unless extra money from retrans fees makes up the slack. CBS had to team up with Turner Sports to retain NCAA basketball, while Fox gave up college football’s BCS games to Disney’s deep-pocketed sports channel.

Still, Carey didn’t explain how to offset the fees that will go to broadcasters, which will either cut into cable systems’ profits or lead to higher monthly rates for consumers.

Carey noted that high ratings this month for NFL football “speak to the power of that programming,” which generally draws its largest audiences on broadcast platforms.

On other fronts, the News Corp. exec said TV networks are “not going to cost-cut your way to success,” noting that developing the next hit franchise like Fox’s “Glee” is ultimately “what’s going to drive our business.” He also spoke of extracting higher fees in future negotiations for Fox’s cable networks, such as FX and the NatGeo Channel.

Addressing technology, Carey called Apple’s iPad a “game-changing device” in terms of its mobility combined with its ease of use, and called 3D television important but said its adoption won’t be the “second coming” of high-definition TV.

Carey was interviewed by Broadcasting & Cable editor Ben Grossman.

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