Broadcast Welcomes Partners

Apr 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

A proposal by Verizon Communications to combine forces with the broadcast industry was welcomed enthusiastically by broadcast executives at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last week.

“I look forward to the phone company being a distributor of our programming in our local markets,” said David Barrett, of Hearst-Argyle Television.

Stations want their programming on as many platforms as possible, added Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman.

The basic pitch presented by Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon CEO and chairman: Verizon wants broadcaster support for a phone industry effort to avoid traditional cable franchise regulation, making it easier for phone companies to compete in the TV marketplace.

Under the traditional franchise approach, cable operators must get franchises from local government authorities, for which they pay up to five percent of revenues.

But in remarks during his keynote speech at the NAB convention, Mr. Seidenberg said his company would prefer to switch to a state or national franchise when it comes to cable, avoiding the time-consuming chore of cutting franchise deals in all of the communities in which the phone company does business.

“We need to find a way to break down the biggest barrier to our entry into video,” Mr. Seidenberg said.

As a trade-off of sorts, Mr. Seidenberg suggested that the phone company will be friendly to broadcasters on such issues as must carry and retransmission consent for their digital content-subjects over which the existing cable TV operators have given broadcasters much grief.

“With the tremendous bandwidth on our systems-and with our business interest in providing as much content as possible-we believe we can effectively address all these issues in a way that expands the market for us both,” Mr. Seidenberg said.

Broadcast industry sources said the proposed alliance is good for broadcasters, in part because it will give them bargaining leverage with traditional cable TV operators. “The more people that distribute our programming, the better it is for broadcasters,” said Mr. Barrett.

Local broadcasters are very encouraged by Mr. Seidenberg’s remarks, said NAB’s Mr. Wharton. “We look forward to continuing dialogue with telephone companies over terms related to their carriage of our local broadcast programming.”