Cohen: NBC Proxy Retrans Regime Could Be Part of Solution to 'Bitter' Disputes

Says it could become a model for the industry
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Comcast EVP David Cohen says that NBC's new
proxy retrans approach to its affiliates might be one way to reduce the
number of retrans wrangles and could become a model for the industry.

At a Media Institute lunch in Washington Wednesday
Cohen, who heads up government affairs for the company, said that there were
few "must" items on its Washington
agenda, though a lot of issues it was interested in.

He did not initially volunteer retransmission consent as one
of them--the FCC is currently contemplating changes to--but added it to the
plate when asked.

"Retrans reform is on the agenda," he said. He
called one of the big "struggles" with the issue authority and
jurisdiction. The FCC has said its authority is limited to enforcing good faith
negotiations, though cable operators have argued it has leeway within that
mandate to act on things like standstill agreements and arbitration.

Comcast has a lot of skin in the game.

Cohen pointed out that Comcast--the largest cable
operator--"probably will pay more retrans than anyone else," and
as a programmer through NBCU, will also be a big recipient of
whatever retrans is paid by Comcast or others.

Referring to the announcement at the NBC affiliates meeting
Monday of the blanket retrans negotiation proposal, which was first
reported by B&C
,
Cohen called it a ground-breaking relationship. "We actually think that is
part of a solution for having rational negotiations between pay TV providers
and a network and affiliates."

He said that if you look at some of the "bitter"
disputes, they involve "splinter" groups, and "less
rarely" involve the major providers. "We think the model that we
are trying to work through with our affiliates could be part of the
solution. It certainly is for our company and for the Pay TV providers who are
doing business with us."

Other issues on Comcast's Washington horizon are privacy,
piracy and the FCC's pending all-vid proceeding. He said there remained a lot
of work on broadband adoption. Among Comcast's pledged is to provide low-cost,
high-speed broadband to low income homes. That will also include providing
computers to those homes for $150 or perhaps cheaper. 

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