Station Groups Want Blackout Rules To Stay -- For Live Programming To Thrive

Whatever leverage broadcasters have with sports programming could be lost if the Federal Communications Commission decides to get rid of blackout rules.

These rules prevent the importing of signals from distant markets, which can hurt a local station’s viewership. If the rules go away -- allowing stations and others to glut the market with more sports programming -- a different kind of marketplace will develop, which station groups say could wreak havoc.

Executives from Fox and CBS argue that eliminating the blackout rules will eventually force sports leagues to move their television rights to pay platforms, and to national and regional cable networks.  They say that poorer homes and the elderly may not be able to view their home teams in future years.

What the filing from local broadcast executives does not mention is the potential for major declines in their advertising revenue coffers.



Stations depend on sports programming for much of their advertising sales. This includes advertising revenues from broadcasts of local sports teams and revenues from local inventory attached to national sports franchises.

Stations also rely heavily on their local news franchises for big advertising revenues.  Now, what do sports and news have in common? Both fall under the category of live programming.

Increasingly, many TV executives and industry analysts are counting on what live programming brings to their bottom lines -- premium dollars from advertisers.

For many marketers, live programming means better viewer engagement with their commercials.  

Live programming can increasingly separate itself from growing use of time-shifted, TV Everywhere, and general digital video content.

Why do the big networks continue to seek sports franchises for their prime-time schedules? It’s because of big advertising dollars -- and consistent predictable ratings -- in the face of the ongoing viewership erosion for non-sports programming.

Removing blackout rules? The FCC seemingly wants a more even and open playing field -- in a growing media world fractionalizing all over the place. Big media doesn’t like fractions.

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