Nexstar OK Nixes MVPDs

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission took a swipe at MVPDs with the Media Bureau’s approval of the merger of TV-station groups Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Media General.

The commission denied petitions by Cox Communications, Dish Network and the American Cable Association to condition the deal.

Cable and satellite operators foresee the merger creating a retransmission-consent bargaining imbalance that would raise the threat of blackouts and higher retransmission fees, “to the detriment of their outlets, consumers and the public interest.”

The bureau concluded that given all the divestitures required by Justice Department and FCC rules, “the transaction will not significantly change whatever bargaining leverage the applicants currently have in the affected markets.”

But while the FCC said there was no basis for finding undue leverage, it conceded that the marketplace was changing and did not foreclose the possibility “of looking at the rising retransmission fees, blackouts and other related issues.”

The bureau also declined to bar after-acquired clauses, which let new owners apply their retransmission rates to stations they acquire in markets where they already have a station and a MVPD retransmission agreement. Dish argued that those clauses reset retransmission fees at a higher rate without any increased value in programming.

The FCC said those clauses were negotiated outside of the merger transaction and “there is no apparent reason for the commission to step in and deny one party the benefit of the negotiated bargain absent evidence of anti-competitive practices of other wrongdoing not apparent here.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.