The forecasters at SNL Kagan have good news this morning for TV broadcasters, but not for pay TV distributors and subscribers.
The research firm projects that cable, satellite and telco payments to retransmit TV stations’ programming will increase nearly 51% to $11.6 billion in 2022. That’s up from $7.7 billion this year, which is 20% more than distributors paid in 2015.
The increase is even more dramatic when you look at how much the payments represent for each pay TV subscriber. Local stations will cost $2.21 a month in 2022, up nearly 58% from $1.40 this year.
By 2019, when annual payments will cross the $10 billion mark, the monthly cost at $1.87 per sub “puts TV stations above all but three U.S. basic cable networks in terms of affiliate fees,” says SNL Kagan, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.
By then it projects subscribers will pay $9.17 a month for ESPN, $2.59 for TNT, and $1.88 for Disney Channel. Most regional sports networks will cost more than $5.00.
Broadcast stations are usually considered must-carry services because they offer the major networks’ popular shows as well as local news. Distributors say that puts them at a disadvantage in negotiations: They often agree to outlays that contribute to pressures to raise rates, despite industry-wide fears that price increases encourage cord cutting.
Distributors paid less than $1 billion a year for local stations as recently as 2009, SNL Kagan says.
The FCC is considering rules that might reduce broadcasters’ leverage. For example, they could make it hard for network owners to bundle stations with pay TV channels, or require them to have an arbitrator settle contract disputes without blacking out their signals.
Local stations funnel to major networks about 40% of the dollars they collect from pay TV distributors. By the end of 2022 that could average 60%, SNL Kagan says.