The American Cable Association ("ACA") submits these comments in response to the Notice of Inquiry and Supplemental Notice of Inquiry issued by the Commission on January 16, 2009 and April 8, 2009, respectively. Both the Notice and Supplemental Notice seek data and information for the purpose of evaluating the status of competition in the video marketplace, changes in the marketplace, and other related issues.
The Commission's inquiry into the status of competition in the video marketplace is of major importance to ACA and its members, and ACA appreciates and welcomes, the opportunity to address these issues. ACA provides these comments specifically in response to the Commission's inquiries regarding the retransmission consent process, including "the ability of small cable operators to secure retransmission consent on fair and reasonable terms." Over the years, ACA has filed numerous filings with the Commission emphasizing that small and medium-sized cable companies are unable to obtain carriage rights for broadcast signals at fair market values, and face persubscriber fees that are many times higher than what larger MVPDs pay for the exact same broadcast stations. We refer to these filings throughout these Comments. We ask that the Commission incorporate those filings into the record of this proceeding.
Unfortunately, the 2008 retransmission consent round posed far greater challenges than previous rounds for small cable operators to obtain broadcast programming at fair and reasonable prices, terms and conditions. To show the Commission the status of retransmission consent in 2008 and 2009, the ACA commissioned a study by Clarus Research Group ("CRG") of ACA's membership. Over 25% of our members responded, and the results from this survey demonstrate that these operators and their customers continue to suffer harm due to the enormous leverage that broadcasters have in retransmission consent negotiations. Therefore, these comments address the following:
Prices, terms, and conditions for access to broadcast programming have increased substantially.
Small cable operators face substantial discrimination in prices for access to broadcast programming.
Increasing retransmission consent demands results in subscribers of smalland medium-sized operators losing temporary and permanent access to broadcast signals.
Retransmission consent costs raise the cost of cable service, harm competition, and hinder the deployment of advanced services.
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