Analyst: FCC Won't Get Involved With TWC-CBS Battle

Cable operators looking for the Federal Communications Commission to alter the retransmission consent system might be involved in a fool’s errand, according to a Wall Street analyst.

Wells Fargo’s Marci Ryvicker wrote in a Thursday report that contacts say the FCC “would prefer” that retrans “remain a market-based regime rather than enforce a heavy hand,” partly due to “limited resources.”

Nonetheless, as FCC intervention might apply to the current Time Warner Cable-CBS dispute, Ryvicker writes the FCC can only get involved if either side files a complaint charging the other with not negotiating in “good faith.” That hasn’t happened -- although Time Warner Cable (TWC) has written to the FCC suggesting it take action to prevent owners of Big Four networks, such as CBS, from tying carriage of their local stations to arrangements covering cable assets.

"There is not much the FCC can do other than urge a resolution,” Ryvicker writes.

The analyst does say that Congress may examine retrans, but likely only in relation to the TV ecosystem at large, including “bundling of cable networks.” The end game might be an overhaul of telecommunications legislation passed in the early 1990s.

The blackouts from the CBS-TWC dispute have been in place since Aug. 2, meaning that some viewers with TWC have been unable to watch two episodes of CBS summer success “Under the Dome.”

It’s possible that the onset of the NFL on CBS (Sept. 8) might spur a resolution, but the first week of the NFL season has teams from New York and Dallas — two primary areas affected by the blackouts — on networks other than CBS. Other teams from markets that have been impacted have games on CBS



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