By all measures, Time Warner Cable had a terrific quarter and that was just the opening the National Association of Broadcasters needed to come out swinging against the cable operator for its relentless advocacy of retransmission reform.
TWC is one of the main members behind the American Television Alliance, which sends out a constant stream of press releases slamming broadcasters for demanding higher fees from pay TV providers to carry their signals, which it claims leads to higher cable rates.
"Given that Time Warner Cable just announced a quarterly net income increase of 44 percent and annual profits of $1.3 billion, it's time for pay TV's poster child for skyrocketing rates to come clean on retransmission consent," said Dennis Wharton, the NAB's scrappy evp of communications. "Time Warner and its front group, the ATVA, claims that broadcast retransmission consent fees are responsible for escalating cable rates. That claim is false. The fact is that local TV station carriage fees account for less than 1 percent of the cost of a monthly cable bill."
Advocates of retransmission reform have made some headway with regulators. Under pressure from TWC, the ATVA and pay TV operators, the Federal Communications Commission reluctantly opened up a proceeding last year to propose some new rules around retransmission reform. But with limited authority, the FCC's proposals stop short of what most advocates would like: forcing broadcasters to allow pay TV providers to carry stations while the two parties work out an agreement.
"Are you kidding NAB?" responded the ATVA in a statement Friday afternoon. "We're surprised that NAB wants to engage in a discussion about corporate financial results at a time when executives of its member companies have publicly bragged that earnings will be driven by dramatic increases in retransmission consent fees. As one broadcast network executive said last year about retrans fees, 'The sky's the limit.'"