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Smith: GovernmentRetrans Moves Could Send Super Bowl To Pay Platform

If the government injects itself into the "private business negotiations of retrans," says National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith, it could ultimately mean the flight of the Super Bowl from free TV.

That warning came in response to the news that the FCC would issue a broad notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on retransmission consent that would likely come up with clarification of what was good faith bargaining and what wasn't, and likely also require broadcasters as well as cable operators to warn viewers of possible cable signal cut-offs due to retrans impasses.

"NAB strongly endorses educating consumers with the multiple options available to them in the exceedingly rare instance when a retransmission consent dispute arises, including the antenna TV option. In the final analysis, injecting Washington into private business negotiations that have a 99% success rate only serves to embolden pay-TV companies," said Smith.

In announcing the NRPM, Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said Wednesday that the "halcyon days" of "thousands" of retrans deals being done quietly and without consumers even knowing about it were over.

"If the pay-TV giants succeed," warned Smith, "there will be further migration of premiere sporting events like the Super Bowl away from free TV, and a reduction in financial resources that sustain quality foreign language programming, local news and entertainment to a growing audience of more than 30 million Americans who rely exclusively on over-the-air television."

Broadcasters argue that without what they see as fair compensation for their valuable TV station signals, which are generally the most-watched channels on cable systems, they will not have the dual revenue stream that allows them to bid against cable programmers for sports rights.