WASHINGTON — News Corp.’s Preston Padden took ASkyB’s dog and pony show to the Assn. of Local TV Stations Thursday, part of his ongoing effort to develop support among broadcasters for the fledgling direct broadcast satellite service.
ASkyB hopes to leap-frog its way to the top of the satellite business by providing subscribers a package of pro-gramming that includes their local TV stations. But some broadcasters are concerned that there will only be room for a limited number of TV stations from each market on the service.
ALTV prexy Jim Hedlund said board members were impressed by Padden’s pitch and left the meeting convinced that distribution via DBS could give broadcasters leverage when it comes time to negotiate with cable operators over carriage.
However, broadcasters are worried about the cost of DBS distribution. Local broadcast signals must be transmitted by fiber-optic wire to ASkyB uplink centers. Padden told broadcasters that the cost could be as much as $20,000 per month. It could be troublesome if local stations are expected to shoulder even a fraction of that cost, said Hed-lund.
ALTV reps stations with Fox, UPN and WB affiliations. It is familiar territory for Padden, now News Corp.’s World Wide Satellite prexy. Padden served as the president of ALTV more than 10 years ago, when it was known as the Assn. of Independent TV Stations.
However, other ALTV members, particularly Paxson Communications and Barry Diller’s Silver King, could be concerned about landing space on Sky. While both have large groups, they are still evolving as program services and hence may be worried about getting the same access as other established broadcast services.
Other concerns from broadcasters include retribution from cable operators for cutting deals with ASkyB. For ex-ample, while a broadcaster in a large market may be able to land a spot on the service, that same broadcaster could own outlets in smaller markets where ASkyB can’t initially offer distribution and a cable operator could retaliate by not carrying a station.
Padden’s comments are also seen as a counter to criticisms of ASkyB’s efforts from rival DBS operator USSB, which is a division of Hubbard Broadcasting.
Padden made a similar pitch to members of the National Assn. of Broadcasters board earlier this month.