FCC Protection For NBC's Stations Sports Programming Efforts? Foul Ball!

NBC affiliates want the Federal Communications Commission to intercede if Comcast Corp. doesn't let them keep the programming they need.  Such a demanding lot! Someone needs a bit of cold water thrown on them -- that, or another change of late-night hosts.

NBC stations want to make sure their prospective new majority owner, Comcast, will let them keep big-name sports franchises and events -- NFL, the Olympics Kentucky Derby, and other events -- instead of putting such programming on Comcast's cable outlets.

But really -- how can NBC affiliates ask the FCC to regulate what programming they can or can't get?

If Comcast wants to pay for crazy, screaming-laden cooking shows or new reality competition shows featuring up-and-coming brain surgeons, unfortunately that's what those NBC affiliates will get.



NBC affiliates also want to make sure they get fair retransmission fees. They're already under the gun -- especially when it comes to prime time and late night over the past few years. You can understand them wanting a break.

Unfortunately, the TV business is not for the faint of heart. Those 50% profit margins of a few years ago are long gone.  The hope is those local TV executives socked some money away.

The bigger issue comes from the whole media consolidation thing. To hear Comcast executives talk, they believe in the broadcast network system. That, in theory, would mean wanting to spend money on programming -- to get the network and its affiliates back to a more competitive status.

Why else would Comcast buy into NBC Universal?  Just to get control  of all that content -- television shows, movies, and Internet content? I don't think so.

Some may fear Comcast is planning a scorched-earth TV philosophy -- eventually looking to sell the network and turning what's left into a pseudo-cable network. But that doesn't make sense.

If Comcast shifts all that local broadcast TV programming to create strong local cable TV stations, it would severely diminish the value of that programming. TV business dynamics still favor the bigger advertising revenue coming from traditional TV broadcast stations and a broadcast network -- at least in the near term.

One can't imagine Comcast messing around with this equation -- not with all those billions on the line and near-term-focused shareholders.

Sure, TV stations smell a possible rat. This is cable after all, their long-time nemesis, part of the reason for their decline. But asking FCC to adjudicate programming decisions doesn't seem possible -- or logical. Get me a bucket.

2 comments about "FCC Protection For NBC's Stations Sports Programming Efforts? Foul Ball! ".
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  1. Steve Beverly from Union Broadcasting System, June 15, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.

    Wayne, I couldn't agree more. This all reminds me of 35 years ago when the movie theater chains went to local governments throughout the U.S. and argued for favored nation status in an effort to block cable companies from adding HBO to their services. We all know the results of that.

    As a long-time broadcaster friend so astutely pointed out to me recently: "Any traditional broadcast group not currently planning for life without a network umbrella is doing so at its own peril."

  2. Bruce May from Bizperity, June 15, 2010 at 3:05 p.m.

    And why do we need local affiliates anyway? Local news? Can't that be distributed without a network affiliation or simply as part of a national cable channel? The affiliate station model came into being out of the necessity for dealing with the costs of building a national infrastructure to support analog signal distribution. That cost is gone. Think about that and give me your answer to this question.

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