Why Would I Lose My Shows?

If you pay a monthly fee to a television service (like a cable, satellite or telephone company), that company must get permission from your local stations to use their signals.

Before 1992, pay-TV companies used stations' signals without asking. Congress determined that was not fair. So they provided stations with the right to grant permission for pay-TV companies to use their signals in 1992.

Pay-TV companies make billions of dollars in profits each year, and sell numerous subscriptions because folks just want to see their basic television channels, like FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC and Univision to name a few.

As part of the process in getting permission from local stations, many pay-TV companies also have to compensate local stations for using their signal – just like they compensate cable channels like Discovery, Food Network and The History Channel.

But, as with most industry giants, these pay-TV companies would rather use local stations' signals without compensating them. That makes it tough for these local stations to provide all the things you value:

  • Regular weather and traffic reports
  • Local news that covers what's happening in your area
  • All those great shows you like to watch

The irony is, while pay-TV companies don't want to pay very much for your local stations, that's what viewers want the most – all those great programs. In fact, of the top 100 primetime shows, more than 90 percent of them are on broadcast TV, not cable.

While channel surfing, viewers may tune into cable shows like "My Cat From Hell" and "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant," but most of the time, viewers are watching the great shows on broadcast television – like "American Idol," "Sunday Night Football," "NCIS," "Dancing with the Stars" and "Corazon Indomable."

If a pay-TV company won't fairly compensate a local TV station, then that station doesn't allow the company to use its signal. Luckily, it very rarely comes to this.

Most pay-TV companies and local TV stations are able to come to an agreement that allows all viewers to see those great broadcast shows. Thousands of successful negotiations happen every year. After all, both parties want to keep viewers happy. But unfortunately, on the rare occasion when negotiations break down denying viewers of the broadcast programming they love, often one of these big companies is involved: Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish.

Agreements that have worked for others don't fly with these big three, who put their bottom lines before viewer needs. The good news is that viewers always have options.

And, it's important to note, viewers who receive their television free through an antenna will never encounter this issue, only viewers who pay monthly to receive television programming through cable, satellite or a telephone company.