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Retrans Reduction

One of the many consequences of NBC’s combining with Comcast is that the NBCowned TV stations may get less for their signals than if the deal had not been done, according to one top Wall Street advisor.

Bernstein Research media analyst Craig Moffett predicted last week that NBC, in a combined Comcast/NBCU deal, will be getting far less than some other broadcasters are reportedly asking— and getting—for their TV-station signals.

Moffett attributes part of this to ratings, but he expects it will also be one of the casualties of regulatory approval of the deal. As to how big a hit this will cause, Moffett predicts that it will take NBC three years to start getting 25 cents per subscriber across its 27 million TV-station households, compared with the 50 cents or so Fox reportedly secured from Time Warner. While Moffett admits that lower ratings have something to do with this disparity, another factor is the “prudent assumption” that the FCC could apply conditions governing what Comcast can charge competitors for NBC programming.

Moffett predicts that the FCC will “at the very least” apply baseball-style arbitration and no-blackout provisions on regional sports networks or TV-station programming. If the commission does prevent signal-pulling in retrans disputes, it will remove negotiating leverage for NBC and contribute to further depressing the retrans price.