Source: Comcast-TWC merger could kill American Television Alliance

Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) deal to acquire Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) will likely result in the demise of the American Television Alliance, a coalition of pay TV distributors that TWC formed in 2010 to lobby for reform of retransmission-consent rules, an executive at one of ATVA's member companies told FierceCable Thursday.

Time Warner Cable has been one of the biggest advocates of retransmission-consent reform, and has been leading the push to lobby Congress and the FCC to reform rules that have allowed local TV stations to use the threat of blackouts to squeeze increased fees from pay TV distributors. ATVA member companies also include DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH), Harron Communications, Mediacom Communications, Suddenlink Communications, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR), Bright House Networks and several cable programmers such as Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA) and Starz Entertainment.

TWC has been one of ATVA's biggest supporters, and has led the funding for its lobbying efforts. But ATVA spokesman Brian Frederick insists that the coalition won't fold. "In spite of the broadcasters' best wishes, the American Television Alliance isn't going anywhere. We're a broad and diverse coalition that will continue to fight for consumers against TV blackouts and skyrocketing restransmission consent fees. Consumers deserve video rules written in the 21st Century and we'll keep fighting until Congress finally fixes this broken system," Fredreick said in a prepared statement. 

Comcast, through its NBCUniversal subsidiary and its NBC and Telemundo stations, is one of the nation's largest broadcasters. NBC hasn't been as aggressive in negotiating retrans deals as fellow broadcasters CBS (NYSE: CBS) and Fox. But NBCU CEO Steve Burke has said that the company believes that NBC should be able to collect the level of retrans fees that CBS and Fox generate. In September, Burke told attendees at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference that he expects that NBCU could generate an additional $500 million to $1 billion in annual revenue if it is able obtain the level of retrans fees collected by CBS and Fox.

"I see no reason why we won't sort of draft behind the other broadcast networks and get paid in a similar way," Burke said.

Time Warner Cable executives have also said publicly that they are fans of Aereo, the New York-based startup that has been sued by NBC and other broadcasters for transmitting local broadcast signals over the Internet to customers using mobile devices and Web browsers.

"Aereo I think is a very interesting idea. I have no idea whether the courts will find it legal or not, but it's certainly something we're looking at," former Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said on an earnings call in April 2012.

Last fall, NBC, Fox and other broadcasters filed a petition at the U.S. Supreme Court that is aimed at forcing Aereo to shut down.

Related articles:
NCTA breaks from Comcast with support for 'examination of retransmission consent regime'
Retrans debate widens rift between operators and programmers on NCTA board
Why Time Warner Cable and Charter may not be ready to quit NCTA
TWC pushes for retransmission-consent reform after signing CBS contract
Time Warner Cable to pitch Aereo if CBS blacks out cable subscribers
ACA's Polka: Small cable operators may exit pay TV business
Broadcasters lose bid to shutter Aereo
Britt: Aereo could help Time Warner Cable stop paying retransmission-consent fees

Article updated on Feb. 13, with statement from ATVA

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