Originally Posted by Tom Weber
OK, at the risk of incurring the wrath of my employer, here's approximately the way we feel about it. I don't know what we are asking from the satellite services, but it is well less than they're collecting from customers.
I hope they aren't mad at you, because this is generally spot-on. My $.02 follows.
The FCC says that over-the-air TV must remain free. But, when a third-party comes along to rebroadcast your signal, those rules go out the window.
I find it interesting that over the last 20 years that I have been watching all of this, that broadcasters didn't charge cable companies at the outset. Initially, cable and TV worked in harmony, because they worked to improve the quality of the reception to homes. BUT...
That all changed when cable started carrying competition to the over-the-air channels. HBO, ESPN, etc. Suddenly, broadcasters found themselves competing with cable companies that were making them lose viewers by providing alternative programming. Nothing wrong with that, but...
The alternative programmers (IE, ESPN, etc) demanded money to be carried. And these days, it is SERIOUS money. All the while, broadcasters didn't take advantage of the retransmission agreements to charge the stations, which they are free to do.
Well...now ESPN, Discovery, etc etc etc have all taken big bites out of broadcast television ratings and revenues. And, while they have had the opportunity to charge cable companies, now they realize that, especially in small-medium markets, it's going to be a matter of survival to charge. In large markets, it's going to improve the bottom line.
Furthermore, these cable/satcos have had a tendency to compress the signals, especially the sat folks, as many are painfully aware...even on local channels. This makes the station looks bad. Sure, AVSers know why the local broadcast HD channels are "HD-lite", but the general public doesn't. So now, the broadcasters have had enough.
If you want a pristine, wonderful signal, grab an antenna and turn your attic or rooftop into a head-end. Otherwise, for the convenience of grabbing it via cable or sat, stations will charge you a "convenience fee" to do so, with a markup by the vendor. You get a decent snow-free picture; and we get revenue from it to continue our programming and to make a profit. It's like the folks who deliver milk (showing my age here) or do your grocery shopping for you when you give them a list. It's amazing, actually, that OTA broadcasters didn't charge for so long.
But Tom didn't tell you of a wrench in that works coming in the future. D* and E* already let you hook up an antenna to get digital signals. Now, the cable cos are looking at a new box coming out which also delivers OTA signals and bypasses the cable company completely. They give you an antenna, you still pay a monthly fee, they make out like a bandit, and the station gets nothing. Well, I smell a court fight coming on the latter, and there's already finger-pointing and screaming starting already. This should be fun to watch...as the satco's are going to see cable do that and try the same thing.
If cable delivered an HD signal while OTA did not, I could see that as an issue. But on this one, Tom and friends have every right to charge vendors to deliver a signal to you, at whatever resolution the vendors want, and however much they think you'll pay for. In the meantime, I selfishly hope this fosters a retro comeback of antennas on roofs and in attics. With the 6th generation LG tuners out, and many people having 5th gen tuners, it's a lot easier to lock stations than just 3 years ago.