TV Exec: Retrans Cash Coming

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New York— Retransmission-consent fees from cable operators and satellite-TV providers will yield a lucrative second revenue stream for broadcasters in the coming years, according to a top Hearst-Argyle Television official.

The 33-station Hearst-Argyle group has already reaped millions of dollars in revenue by “monetizing” retransmission consent, president David Barrett said during a panel last week at the International Radio & Television Society Foundation’s annual Faculty/Industry Seminar.

Retransmission consent has translated to $5.7 million over the past three years, according to the broadcaster’s federal filings.

Satellite providers are offering local programming packages, which have helped drive subscriptions — and give TV stations an edge in dealing with them, noted Barrett.

“The satellite companies, because there are two of them, found they can really drive increased subscriptions if they have a local-to-local package,” Barrett said. “Stations are in a better position than ever to insist on some kind of a consideration from satellite.”

Barrett also referred to telephone companies’ plan to deliver video.

“Our view is that the more people that are out there prepared to be a distributor of our content, [it] puts us in a better position to monetize some of the retransmission consents,” Barrett said.

He added: “Our company in the past several years has put several million dollars in our income statement in retransmission-consent fees. And that’s a number that’s growing significantly.”

According to Hearst-Argyle’s most recent annual report, the broadcaster designated Lifetime Television as its agent in retransmission-consent talks. Lifetime is 50% owned by Hearst Corp. and 50% by The Walt Disney Co.

In exchange for retransmission consent for Hearst-Argyle stations, Lifetime got cable carriage Lifetime Movie Network. Lifetime then compensated Hearst-Argyle: the broadcaster collected $1.9 million from Lifetime last year, $2.5 million in 2002 and $1.3 million in 2001.

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