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State of the Screens

TV blackouts are the new normal

By July 31, 2019No Comments

A new record: There are still five months remaining in 2019, but we already have a record number of television blackouts.

Television blackouts by year according to The American Television Alliance (ATVA):
2010 – 8
2011 – 42
2012 – 90
2013 – 119
2014 – 94
2015 – 193
2016 – 104
2017 – 213
2018 – 165
2019 – 213+

The latest: CBS local stations in 14 markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco have been dark on AT&T since July 20th.  This impacts roughly 6.5M AT&T customers in those markets.

What the fight is about: AT&T currently pays ≈ $2/subscriber/month to carry CBS local stations.  CBS is reportedly seeking a 50% increase to $3.  It is estimated that local retransmission fees generate $8B/year for broadcast stations.

Leverage for CBS: The NFL kicks off its 2019 season on September 8th and, CBS plans to air a half a dozen matchups.

Leverage for AT&T: It is now easier than ever to get broadcast TV OTA (over the air) through a service like Locast.

Who wins?  It is in neither parties interest for the local stations to be excluded from a pay-TV package. The final monthly subscriber cost will be a good judge of who wins.

What is Locast?  Locast is a non-profit streaming service offering local, over-the-air television.  They are currently in 13markets reaching 30M TV households with ≈ 250K registered users.

Locast markets:
1) Baltimore
2) Boston
3) Chicago
4) Dallas
5) Denver
6) Houston
7) Los Angeles
8) New York City
9) Philadelphia
10) Rapid City
11) San Francisco
12) Sioux Falls
13) Washington, D.C.

Shots fired #1: AT&T recently made a $500K donation to Locast.

Shots fired #2: AT&T put up the following message when customers tried to access their local CBS station.

More #1: CBS Goes Dark on AT&T Amid a Dispute

More #2: Locast, a Free App Streaming Network TV, Would Love to Get Sued

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.

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