The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) endorsed a “quiet period” on carriage renegotiations and is said to have confirmed that pulling broadcast stations from pay television subscribers increases digital-to-analog converter box coupon requests.
The notices were included in a letter from the NTIA, sent to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Congressman Nathan Deal (R-GA), who are both monitoring the situation. The letter was quoted by the American Cable Association (ACA).
A renegotiation argument earlier this year between LIN TV on the one hand and Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks on the other resulted in LIN TV pulling its signal from several TWC and Bright House systems.
In previously published NTIA documents (located here), the NTIA does not explicitly state that that carriage argument resulted in higher consumer requests for coupons in the affected markets, but it is clear that those markets were among those with the highest percentage of coupon requests.
Coupon program participation rates range from a low of 12 percent for Juneau, Alaska, and a high of 145 percent for Wilmington, N.C., the testbed for the switchover. Those rates are outliers, though. Most markets fall in the 40 percent to 80 percent range. The markets affected by the LIN TV blackout tend to be in the higher end of that range.
In the NTIA letter quoted by the ACA, NTIA Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Meredith Attwell Baker, said, “A retransmission consent ‘quiet period’ would be helpful in reducing consumer confusion during the DTV transition.”
The ACA is lobbying hard for a quiet period that begins in December, before current retrans contracts expire and more blackouts ensue from frustrated negotiations, causing more disruption and consumer upset. Other interests are saying that a start date in January or even February would be adequate.
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