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ACA Addresses Rising Retransmission Consent Payments

The American Cable Association Thursday pointed to rising retransmission consent payments to stations, saying that, long-term, it will push for a solution to that "problem."

Broadcasters are increasingly pushing for cash compensation for what they see as high-value content for cable operators. But ACA sees it differently, arguing that financial results for first-quarter 2009, "one of the softest economic periods in decades," show some whopping retrans payment increases that border on the obscene.

"When cable customers want to know why their bills keep going up, all they need to do is look at how TV stations exploit retransmission consent to squeeze every penny they can from pay-TV providers, especially ACA's small, independent cable companies," said ACA President Matthew Polka.

While ACA says it will defer to the will of Congress and not push for retrans reform as part of the current reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Extention and Reauthorization Act, that didn't stop it from pointing to what it considered excessive payments and to a system it says is broken.

ACA cited Journal Communications' 333.3% gain in payments (to $1.3 million), Hearst-Argyle's 97.8% boost to $12.4 million, and LIN TV's increase of 82% to $8.9 million.

Broadcasters see retrans as a way to tap into the dual-revenue-stream model that has cable operators doing well in tough times, when ad-supported models are losing their ad support. It is almost certain that those payments are the only category on broadcaster balance sheets currently showing such strong gains.