By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, we lost our ABC station on Spectrum TV because of the big fight with Disney. My question is why couldn’t Spectrum just show another ABC station, like the one from San Diego which is close to us? I’m sure the San Diego station would like to get extra viewers during this blackout which would be good for its business! We are missing the start of college football! (Also, the San Diego news sometimes has LA news.) — Peter, Santa Monica, California.
Peter, Charter’s Spectrum TV on Thursday night lost 26 Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC-owned local channels in select markets, due to a carriage dispute with Disney. The ABC stations are ABC7 Chicago, ABC7 Los Angeles, ABC7 New York, ABC7 San Francisco, ABC11 Raleigh-Durham, ABC13 Houston, ABC30 Fresno.

Over the years when there’s a fee fight between a TV provider and a network affiliate, readers will often ask me why the provider doesn’t replace the station with another one. In this case, why doesn’t the Charter-owned Spectrum TV just import a different ABC affiliate to replace the Disney-owned KABC in Los Angeles. The San Diego ABC affiliate is owned by Scripps, which Spectrum has a contract with to offer its station affiliates in markets it serves. Why couldn’t Spectrum just call up Scripps and add the San Diego affiliate to its list?

Well, Charter would love to do that. But the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has two rules called ‘network nonduplication’ and ‘syndication exclusivity’ that are designed to protect the local TV market from being replaced by an out-of-market signal. The rules prevent a pay TV provider, such as Charter, to substitute programming in one market by using a signal from an out-of-market source. The agency is attempting to preserve the economic viability of local TV stations so they will be around indefinitely to provide important news and weather information. That’s a good thing. But as we pointed out in this article, the rule has also allowed local stations to force pay TV providers to pay enormous sums for their signals, which in turn has led to higher monthly prices for pay TV subscribers. If the providers could pick and choose which network affiliates to offer, the local stations wouldn’t have the leverage they do in carriage negotiations.

Peter, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann