SNL Kagan Summit (updated 7:58 a.m. Thursday)

Station Retrans Fees Up, But ESPN Still King

Currently, broadcasters get about $1 per month for each subscriber from the television service providers that carry their stations. Broadcasters may, however, be moving toward parity with other cable channels, which individually earn more in retransmission fees than broadcasters do but not as much as ESPN.

While broadcasters’ retransmission fees are expected to rise, over-the-air TV will likely never get the size of fees paid to ESPN, which, at the top of the heap, gets more than five times what broadcasters do.

“The audience for ESPN is probably the most passionate out there, and if all of a sudden a carrier drops ESPN, that audience will leave,” Robert Folliard, a Dow Lohnes associate who works with affiliates, said Thursday morning. “With broadcast, people will leave but you don’t have that passion.”

Story continues after the ad

Folliard was part of a panel that addressed issues surrounding retransmission fees — and ways TV stations can grow that revenue — at the SNL Kagan TV and Radio Finance Summit in New York.

Currently, broadcasters get about $1 per month for each subscriber from the television service providers that carry their stations. ESPN gets $5.54, according to SNL Kagan Associate Director Robin Flynn.

Broadcasters may, however, be moving toward parity with other cable channels, which individually earn more in retransmission fees than broadcasters do but not as much as ESPN, they say.

“I do think we can get there,” Robert Dunlop, the EVP of operations at Fisher Communications, said.

Brand Connections

According to SNL Kagan's latest research, TV stations’ retransmission consent revenue will grow from $3 billion to $4.9 billion in 2016.

And despite cable operators’ complaints that retrans fees are too high, said SNL Kagan’s Robin Flynn who presented the research at the summit, they are “dwarfed” by the fees that the operators pay to basic cable networks.

Those fees will grow from $31.7 billion in 2013 to $40.8 billion in 2016, said Flynn. Retrans amounts to just 9.5% of the basic networks’ 2013 take and just 12% of their 2016 take.

The research also shows that retrans has become a significant contributor of station groups’ total revenue (and has grown substantially over the past three years).

The top five in retrains as a percentage of total revenue:

Sinclair, 20% (up from 16% in 2009)

News Corp., 19% (up from 8%)

Univision, 19% (up from 11%)

CBS, 18% (up from 7%)

Nexstar, 16% (up from 10%).

For the most part, only network affiliates have been able to negotiate from retrans. But they have had to share a portion of the fees they collect to their networks.

According to the research, the “reverse comp” that affiliates pay networks will amount to 46% of their retrans take of $1.6 billion in 2013 and increase to 54% of their take of $2.9 billion in 2016.


Comments (7) -

Retran101Man Nickname posted over 4 years ago
Shhhh - Don't let Matt Polka from ACA know how much ESPN is getting per sub, per month! He'll go crazy and run to Congress again for relief. Oh no, I'm mistaken, Polka only cries when broadcasters get paid...
Doubtful Nickname posted over 4 years ago
How does the spot inventory that ESPN gives to cable/satellite provides impact the comparison of retrans fees? ESPN gets a lot more money on a per-sub basis...but they also give up a lot of inventory that the cable/satellite operator can sell in order to "buy down" the retrans fee. Is there a way to calculate the value of the inventory that ESPN gives up and see what the "net-net" cost of ESPN is?
AlwaysEvolving Nickname posted over 4 years ago
Dear are just about 40% off in what networks get.....Other insiders are saying any where from $0.40 to $0.60 per sub. Can you confirm it...please
FederalGuy Nickname posted over 4 years ago
those other insiders are not very good negotiators. I'm in a mid-small market and all MSO's large and small are around $1 per sub this year.
onthesidelines Nickname posted over 4 years ago
That two minutes per hour of spot inventory on ESPN that goes to cable/satellite carriers isn't going to come close to the $5.50/month fee that they pay to carry ESPN.
AlwaysEvolving Nickname posted over 4 years ago
Mrs. Marszalek How can cable networks "DWARFED" broadcasters on fees per sub when on March 2012 ESPN was $5.06 now around $5.50, TNT was around $1.21, and if you average ALL of the other cable nets, they were at $0,42.... .....I am not disputing.....I just want to understand. Thx.
FederalGuy Nickname posted over 4 years ago
How many stations do systems pay retransmission to? vs how many cable nets do systems pay for? Something like 4-8 vs 150-200. you can do the math from there
Marketshare Blog Playout Blog




Overnights, adults 18-49 for March 23, 2017
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
Source: Nielsen


  • Maureen Ryan

    It’s appropriate that The Good Fight on CBS All Access has a slightly more jagged and splintered atmosphere than The Good Wife, the long-running CBS drama that starred Julianna Margulies. In the opening minutes of the first episode, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), watches as Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Before the 50-minute pilot is over, the jarring changing of the guard in Washington is the least of her troubles. Baranski brings a heartbreaking rawness to her performance as Diane, who never got enough meaningful screen time on The Good Wife. Diane’s plight is thus personal but also metaphorical: She likens the collapse of every pillar of her supposedly solid and trustworthy world to a nightmare.

  • David Wiegand

    It’s hard to say which is more excessive in the new CBS crime thriller, Training Day: the action or the dialogue. But in either case, the series from Jerry Bruckheimer and Anthony Fuqua goes a long way toward waking up broadcast TV’s mid-season. There is plenty of action, enhanced by fast-paced editing, in the three episodes made available to critics. And there’s violence. But most of all, there is dialogue so rich and colorful, it almost evokes the stuff of guys like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, or at least Sgt. Joe Friday. Training Day just may get away with murder on Thursday nights when the numbers are counted.

  • Hank Stuever

    Well, they only had to remake a jillion TV shows from yesteryear to finally get one exactly, perfectly right. Not only is Netflix’s reimagined One Day at a Time a joy to watch, it’s also the first time in many years that a multicamera sitcom (the kind filmed on a set with studio-audience laughter) has seemed so instinctively comfortable in its own skin. It doesn’t try to subvert or improve on the sitcom format; it simply exhibits faith that the sitcom genre can still work in a refreshing and relevant way.

  • Hank Stuever

    Michelle Dockery has made an astonishing career swerve from Downton Abbey on PBS to TNT’s intriguing and impressively seedy crime drama Good Behavior. Dockery throws herself into the role of Letty Raines — a liar, thief and ex-con in North Carolina who sweats long shifts as a waitress and relies on a pleasant-voiced motivational app to keep her off drugs and booze, in between visits with her parole officer. The true accomplishment of Good Behavior is that none of this seems as hokey as it sounds. Dockery digs deep and gives a frenetic and often moving performance.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    The intriguing CW series Frequency starts out looking as if it were going to be a bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged time-travel drama in the Stephen King-Twilight Zone lineage, and that probably would have made for a comfortably satisfying show, the kind you can half-watch while doing something else. In the last third of the premiere, though, things take a joltingly different, more complicated path. Sorry, couch potatoes, but it looks as if you might have to keep both eyes on the screen for this one.

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

This advertisement will close automatically in  second(s). You will see this ad no more than once a day. Skip ad