Ugh... these retrans disagreements are getting old.
Here's the reality... local television stations depend on ad revenue to survive. When people skip commercials, fewer see the spots, and advertisers know it's happening, so they demand lower rates. And get them.
So that means the local station has less money to maintain/improve equipment, pay the light bill, pay salaries and so on.
The local stations then have to find ways to generate more revenue.
They can't charge people who watch their over-the-air signal. So they work out retransmission agreements with cable and satellite providers... those distributors pay a per-subscriber fee to the local television station, which makes up, sorta, for the lost ad revenue.
Then along comes a new technology that ensures NONE of the ads on the local station will be seen. Even lower advertising revenues for the station - if I were advertising, I sure wouldn't pay full rate card (yeah, I know, rate cards are fiction anyway, nobody pays that), and would demand even deeper discounts because I *know* fewer people will see my ad.
So that's where Gannett is coming from in this disagreement. They want more per subscriber, because it's almost like a premium channel with no commercials at all.
TANSTAAFL. To watch local stations, you're going to pay, one way or the other... either by watching ads, or paying more cash.
Distributors say "look, we just provide the channel, what viewers do with it is up to them, we're not going to pay more because they skip your commercials." But they will... distributors are at a disadvantage, because people think they can't get those channels in any other way and demand that their cable or satellite company provide those channels to them. Look at all the angst online about some markets losing NBC, some losing CBS... "OMG, life is over, I can't watch an NFL game."
But here's the fly in the ointment... some DVRs can receive the free, over the air broadcast. And record it. Then, when the programming is viewed... the viewer can STILL skip the commercials! I know, because I do exactly that.
The only way to solve that is to outlaw recording broadcast television - if you want to watch the program, you will sit through the commercials.
In order for advertising supported television to continue, it will be necessary to disable commercial skipping devices. Because technology is going to continue to advance.
Another problem for local stations is their own networks... with just a couple of clicks, I can watch almost every network program online via the networks' own websites... free and legally. Oh, sure, I can't skip the ads when I view the program online! But that doesn't put a single red cent in the bank account of the local stations.
Local broadcast television is in trouble. It relies on a business model that's unsustainable in the face of technology. The only way to save the business model is legislation... and it may be the only way to save local broadcast television will be via legislation to control what viewers are able to do with the content they receive.