I often write about one form of inherent tension in over-the-air TV broadcasters’ messages. On one hand, they accurately portray themselves as community servants and disaster lifelines. On the other hand, if they don’t get their ever-higher retransmission fees from their cable viewers (via the cable company), then they’re very willing to turn off their signals and walk away.
Over at TVNewsCheck, Harry A. Jessell pointed out another, related question that OTA broadcasters have to address: How much cord-cutting is a good thing? On one hand, a certain percentage of OTA-only households make stations look more attractive to ad buyers trying to reach the widest audience. On the other hand, every cord that gets cut is one fewer subscriber paying retrans fees. What would be the most profitable percentage of OTA viewers? As Jessell puts it, broadcasters “need to find the sweet spot.”
Another complicating issue is that if retrans fees get too high and OTA antennas get too simple, maybe cable systems will add them to set-top receivers and not pay anything. Jessell goes into a lot more detail about these and other topics, so just go read it!