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Report: Retrans Could Boost British Broadcasters

British broadcaster ITV called for major U.K. TV platforms like BSkyB and Virgin Media to pay for transmission of free over-the-air content after a recent report said that so-called retransmission consent helped fuel the current “Golden Age of Television” in the United States.

According to the report, Delivering for Television Viewers: Retransmission Consent and the US Market for Video Content, and conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, retrans has “contributed significantly to the overall health of the U.S. broadcasting industry.”

According to the report, commissioned by ITV in partnership with Germany’s VPRT and Free TV Australia, free-to-air broadcasters received about $3.3 billion in retrans payments in 2013, accounting for less than 3% of cable operator revenue – but about 15% of total broadcast revenue – and “having little or no impact on pay TV prices.”

ITV estimates that UK commercial Public Service Broadcasters invest around $4.8 billion on programming – and that it alone spends almost $1.6 billion annually – most of which is pumped back into original content. Under the current regime, no payment is made by the pay TV platforms to PSBs who fund this programming.

In a statement, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said that introducing retransmission fees would have clear benefits to the UK creative industries and the wider economy by enabling PSBs to continue to invest in original programming.

“The majority of viewing on these pay TV platforms is PSB programming yet ITV, whether as producer or broadcaster investing in creating that content, doesn’t receive any payment – despite the fact that pay TV platforms pay commercial terms for other channels,” Crozier said in a statement. The impact of this wholly outdated regime is that UK Public Service Broadcasters are forced to subsidise major pay TV platforms. In today’s highly competitive media marketplace that is simply wrong – and to the detriment not just of the PSBs, but the consumer and the wider UK creative economy.”

“It is in the interests of all broadcasters that we encourage the regulator and government to look again at this issue for the benefit of the industry and viewers,” he concluded.