Gray Television Seeks to Protect Retrans

First TV networks took away affiliate compensation. Now they’re going after a percentage of a TV station’s retransmission dollars. Some groups, such as Gray Television, are just saying no.

Bob Prather, president and chief operating officer took the opportunity during the company’s third-quarter conference call Monday (Nov. 9) to call for TV groups to present a “united front” to TV networks angling for piece of the retransmission action.

“As an industry we need to really work hard on trying to make sure that the networks don’t use the old divide-and-conquer [method]; the affiliates need to use their affiliate boards,” said Prather, who noted that Gray’s affiliation agreements with the networks were a few years off. “We worked very hard to get retrans from the cable industry, led by Sinclair and Nexstar a few years ago. Virtually every TV broadcaster is getting retrans right now, but it’s based on our work and nobody else’s work, and I think we need to work hard to keep 100 percent of it.”

Gray also joined other TV groups such as Gannett, in expressing disappointment about NBC’s move to air Leno at 10 p.m. “The Leno experience isn’t working so far. It’s definitely hurting lead-in to the 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock news in some of our markets,” Prather said.

Gray’s revenue was down 20 percent to $66.4 million in third quarter, which was up against robust political the previous year. Automotive was off 33 percent compared to the prior year.

The good news is that “business is definitely getting better,” Prather said. Driving next year will be the prospects of strong political and the Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.