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June 2, 2009 at 3:24 AM #41678AnonymousInactive
You know, the FCC’s not all bad. Sure, they’re outlawing most of the wireless mics that video producers use, and every time you turn around there’s some new rule you haven’t heard about, but sometimes the FCC tries to do something great for indie producers. Take leased access, for example.
If you don’t know what leased access is, you should. It’s a great program that showed up on the scene as part of the Cable Act of 1992. In a nutshell, leased access is an FCC law that allows any video producer to lease out space for a reasonable fee on any cable service provider with more than 36 channels (In 2009, that’s pretty much every cable provider). This leased space is yours to put your own program on, much like public access, but there are a few HUGE advantages over public access. For example while public access is usually restricted to one specific station, leased access can be on major stations.
The biggest advantage however is that because this is commercial in nature, you can get sponsors and sell ads! Because of this, if you provide a decent program, you can make a profit from it. Some video producers make their living from leased access programming.
While this sounds great, the first step is to actually get your cable company to pony up the information on leasing access. Suprisingly, despite the fact that providing leased access is required by law, many cable company officials have never heard of it, making it very challenging to get the access.
This is my story. I have a great program. I know it would be popular, and I know that I can get sponsorship for it. So today I decided to start trying to get leased access. You would think that the first thing I would do would be to call my local cable office. But of course it isn’t that easy. Charter is our local provider, and strangely, despite the fact that they’re a communications provider, the local office has no local phone number! Yes, it’s true – it’s impossible to call up the local charter office. You HAVE TO call their 888 number.
So that’s exactly what I did. I called their toll free number, and quickly learned that this wasn’t going to be easy. Charter’s 888 number starts by asking for your phone number. Assuming you enter that, it gives you 6 options, and not one of them has anything to do with questions regarding leased access. After 20 minutes of playing around, I found a number that went to a real live person. This person, thick Indian accent and all, told me she couldn’t help me, but would forward me to the “right department”. I was put on hold for about 15 minutes, before I heard a voice saying “This is Crystal, how can I help you?” I started telling her that I was calling to find out rates for leased access in my area, but by this time, she had hung up on me!
I wasn’t willing to play with their useless phone system again, so I laced up the shoes and headed to their main office. Now getting to this next part, I’ll preface it by pointing out that the cable act stipulates that cable offices are supposed to have a leased access rate card available on demand to anyone who requests one. I got to the office, and stood in line to talk to the lady at the counter. When we started chatting, it was almost comical. When I told her I wanted a leased access rate card, she looked at me sorta funny before asking me what it was I wanted again, and she started to give me information on their cable packages.
I stopped her and explained what leased access is. It took a while for her to get it. At first she thought I wanted to buy commercials. Then she thought I wanted to buy late night infomercial space. Then she told me that they didn’t offer leased access. So I explained that it’s a law, and the FCC mandates that every cable provider with 36 or more channels offer it. At this point, she’s totally confused, and asks if she can go find someone to help her. I let her go, and wait about 15 minutes while she’s in the back.
She returns, telling me that they can’t find any information on leased access, and she offers to take my name and email so they can call me “when they find it”. So I left my number and went home.
So we’ll see if I ever get this info. Either way, I’ll keep you all informed.
June 2, 2009 at 4:10 AM #176393
Your story is interesting, enlightening and also VERY spot on regarding the typical experience by most independents seeking what you are seeking. In fact, even though I thought (at one time) that I had “sort of” an in, into the local cable provider caves – NOT. I eventually went on to other things and just couldn’t muster up the drive and determination to continue pursuing what seemed to be an impossible goal – a program that, like you, I thought could prove interesting and feasible timewise, funding wise and with a commitment of not too many of my limited weekly hours for such things.
I know that in times past Videomaker magazine has published complete articles on Leased Access, and has even offered additional information and samples for people interested in purchasing their resources and pursuing Leased Access possibilities.
I also know that exact, specific and on the spot information regarding phone numbers, names and locations for what often appears to be a phantom program, and a semblance of ideas of the going rates, etc. are rare if not impossible to find. I also know that the general information readily available for Leased Access in no way gives the average independent producer who doesn’t know an inkling of what it REALLY takes to achieve purchase of Leased Access time. The man or woman who does the research and finds the REAL and CURRENT information regarding the FCC and Leased Access as it stands TODAY, could make a mint selling several sheets of paper stapled together, or putting the resulting pdf onto a disk.
The FCC might say and do (or not) much regarding helping anyone enforce their “rights” so far as Leased Access goes, but the cable companies have fought this since day one, campaigns by independents and public access proponents have been conducted, and Cable USA continues to play ignorant when it comes to being the least bit helpful to anyone asking – as you have discovered and pointed out.
I will be totally shocked if anyone calls as a result of you leaving your contact information. They probably hope you got ran over on the way home from their offices 🙂
June 2, 2009 at 4:55 AM #176394AnonymousInactive
The most amusing thing to me is that every time the Cable Companies try to talk the FCC out of providing leased access, they always cite the low numbers of people using the program as proof these programs are nonessential. But in truth, if it were easy for producers to acquire leased access, I’m sure that many areas would fill up their 15% requirements easily. It doesn’t happen because getting info takes more energy than it’s worth to most.
Next time I show up at Charter (as I doubt they’ll call me back) I’ll likely discover that nobody found out anything, or even remembers me. And the cycle starts all over again.
The thing about the FCC is that it takes a bunkload of noise to get them to do anything. While this is going to be a great thing for all the video producers using wireless mics in the 700Mhz range after June, it stinks when it comes to the lack of enforcement on big cable.
Ah well, we’ll see.
June 2, 2009 at 11:09 AM #176395svtcobraltdParticipant
Keep us informed. I would like to see how far you get with this as it does seem like an uphill battle.
June 2, 2009 at 3:13 PM #176396
Thanks for bringing this up. This is exactly what indy producers need in this harsh economic environment. A cheap way to get their productions into the mainstream pipleline in a commercially profit potential manner. Of course the cable co’s will fight anything that they think will cut into their hegemony and totally miss the fact that this is a money making opportunity for them as well. My firm is currently developing a web-based channel, but having a parallel Leased Access channel would give coverage to non-web viewing customers. Not to mention an additional revenue stream for local advertising business. I’ll look into this further as well. When I come up with something, I’ll pass it along.
June 2, 2009 at 3:25 PM #176397
Here’s a recent decision to update the Leased Commercial Access reg’s. Apparently, the Chairman heard about how much difficulty independent producers are having getting the access at reasonable fees required by law.
June 2, 2009 at 3:51 PM #176398
Here’s the complete decision made by the FCC Chairman back in 2007 on what the rules are and the maximum rate a cable co. can charge per month. From what I read, there should be no reason why a producer could not negotiate a price that is economical yet profitable for both sides.
There is a catch though. The price is based upon the number of subscribers. I could find no specifics as to whether the ‘number of subscribers’ pertained to only those who subscribed to the leased channel or the overall number of subscribers in the cable company’s area of coverage. If you are in a very large market, even with a low-ball rate that could get expensive. The main obstacle as usual would be the cable co. as they would naturally want to have as much control as possible despite what the rules stipulate.
June 2, 2009 at 6:59 PM #176399AnonymousInactive
To my utter shock, Bill from my local Chrater
office sent me an email letting me know that he would have to get
details from me, and then he would send it along to get info. The
emails that were attached to his message were almost amusing.
Apparently even the Charter bigwigs had issues figuring out what to do
with me. They made it very clear that no rate card exists or can be
delivered, and they said that they can only give rates after I tell
them what I was looking for.
In response, I shot Bill about 8
different scenarios, rangin from buying a 30 minute slot on the
weekends, to a 60 minute slot during primetime. I even mentioned I’d
have interest in knowing what rates would be for a 24/7 dedicated
channel. We’ll see what sort of rates I get back from them. At this
point, I’m just suprised they got back to me.
If it can be done, this could be a great way to get a little extra income. We’ll see how this goes.
June 2, 2009 at 11:22 PM #176400
That’s good news. Absolutely read the latest ruling on Leased Commercial Access (the 2nd pdf link /DOC-278453A4.) It tells you exactly the max they can charge you per month. Your ‘scenarios’ are not what the ruling says you can do. Read the ruling and come up with a payment plan that won’t put you in the poorhouse. Do not leave it up to the cable company to decide. Good luck.
June 3, 2009 at 6:00 AM #176401
If you will put ‘leased access’ in Google you’ll find help. The Leased Access Programmers Assn will help. My firm, StogTv, is probably the largest user of leased access in the country and i’ll gladly help anyone gain use of the cable site they desire. If you will email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I can get the info from Charter from you in days…or sooner.
The reason there are so few users is FCC’s own career-level staff seems to work hard to help cable sites ward off LAPers (leased access programmers) but we prevail.
We’re trying to get a leased access group going on Linkedin and we hope the new FCC chairman and commission will pick up the fight to get the new rules adopted in Nov., 07 in effect. Cable so far has had a court ‘stay’ the new rules.
So, come on in, the waters fine. Not as warm as we’d like but you can operate at a profit if you want.
June 3, 2009 at 7:48 AM #176402
Doing a Google search for “leased access video information” (using the quotes) got me this single hit: a report that started out as a WordPerfect file and was converted to ASCII text. It is full of crappy formatting jumble, but might be worth a scan to peruse some of the information contained. Go to FCC dot GOV to see it.
Doing a Google search for leased access video information without quotes really opened up the field: 1,460,000 hits, and I scanned through the first 35 or so. Among these, the most interesting one is a web site by the Leased Access Producers Association (I did NOT delve into it thoroughly yet, but I am most certainly going to, probably will join as well); followed by our own Videomaker magazine – see Videomaker.com and while I have not yet determined if ANY of this information the “go to” definitive resource for GETTING the information out of cable companies, it can be a GREAT start.
Other links that caught my eye in the first 35 included: Leased Acces dot org, Studio1Productions, GCI, the DV Show and JMSVideos. A couple of these, Studio 1 and The DV Show were noted to have “older, but still valid (content) videos” regarding the subject. If that’s not enough, after I preview a few more of the 1.46 million hits off Google, I will probably try to come up with a useful compilation of information on E.C. Come, E.C. Go no, it’s not researched, written or posted yet, but soon – I will let you know.
June 3, 2009 at 12:29 PM #176403AnonymousInactive
A nice, concise guide to a producer’s rights and responsibilities would be a fantastic thing. I’ve been looking through the same searches and links as you, and the problem I see is that the people who already do leased access don’t do a good job explaining how they got into it (believe me, I’ve surfed the LAPA forums for a pretty good bit. Okay, 30 minutes, but still…). Further, the FCC doesn’t really spell out how to actually use this great program, and the Cable companies will do everything in their power to prevent you from using this. Unless you’re well-informed and willing to enter a fight where virtually everyone is against you, it’s a tough battle.
On the bright side, if the info I’ve already found is true, leased access can’t be all that expensive in our area, though I’m not positive, since I have yet to hear back from Charter. According to the FCC, the cable co can not charge more than 10 cents per subscriber to their services per month they allow me access into the program. So I went to the FCC’s site to check out the Annual Report for my area, and an annual report hasn’t been filed in ages. Further investigation seems to indicate that if a cable provider doesn’t have 20,000 subscribers, they don’t have to file a report. So in other words, the maximum they can quote me would be under $2000/month for this. I think I could definitely find that level of sponsorship for this program and then some. So we’ll see what comes of this.
Anyway, as soon as I hear from Charter again, I’ll let y’all know. According to the FCC docs composite1 pointed towards, they should have a response to my inquiry within 3 business days of the request, which is either today or tomorrow based on which request they go by. (It would have been yesterday if they counted the request I made through their website!)
June 3, 2009 at 11:33 PM #176404
Okay, you’ve made me realize the error of my ways. What happens in a lot of cases is persons looking for info often contact me and I share on the phone. I need to put better detailed material on our association site.
Not only does FCC not spell out how to actually use this program, the evidence is overwhelming the career-level staff resolves disputes over usage in favor of cable and never, never, to my knowledge has offered any suggestion to an alternative solution. For example FCC ruled a year ago that cable can place leased access on the digital tiers while keeping their own competing, local origination, channels on basic. It was some C-Span, the cable industry’s PR channel, that convinced court to stay the new rules since if they were moved to the digital tiers to make room for leased access on basic it would cause them enough loss in potential viewers to put them out of business. Wait, wasn’t it FCC that ruled cable could put leased access on the digital tier although the rule explicitly says leased access shall be on a channel on a tier used by MOST subscribers. You’re correct about being well informed and willing to fight. We don’t hesitate to fight both cable and FCC.
You write: “On the bright side, if the info I’ve already found is true, leased access can’t be all that expensive in our area,” you’re probably right.
According to the FCC, the cable co can not charge more than 10 cents per subscriber to their services per month they allow me access into the program. This would have been true had the new rules not been stayed. Presently the rate is close to 45 cents, per sub, per month, full time but this can vary considerably according to the time of day you want to use. For example at a site with approximately 100,000 subs, the rate is about $30 per hour, early AM; $60, 7am-7pm and $130 7pm-12am.
So I went to the FCC’s site to check out the Annual Report for my area, and an annual report hasn’t been filed in ages. Further investigation seems to indicate that if a cable provider doesn’t have 20,000 subscribers, they don’t have to file a report. So in other words, the maximum they can quote me would be under $2000/month for this. I think I could definitely find that level of sponsorship for this program and then some. So we’ll see what comes of this.
While part time rates based on 20,000 subs should be such you can air profitable shows, full time on such a system would cost about $9,000 a month.
Anyway, as soon as I hear from Charter again, I’ll let y’all know. According to the FCC docs composite1 pointed towards, they should have a response to my inquiry within 3 business days of the request, which is either today or tomorrow based on which request they go by. (It would have been yesterday if they counted the request I made through their website!) This would have been true under the new rules that have been stayed now for over a year. The current rule is Charter must provide the information with 15 days of your formal request.
Enough interest from users of this forum, I’ll gladly try to quickly compile some facts and add them at http://www.leasedaccess.org
June 4, 2009 at 4:01 PM #176405
You brought some relevent data to this question. It also brings to light how the FCC’s idea of ‘inexpensive’ puts so many potential users of the service out of the picture. Cable co’s should you ‘beat them down’ enough to submit to the law and provide the service will want a commitment of 1 year minimum. Let’s just say that a producer negotiated the 20k subscriber package and leases a time slot for $2k per month with an annual commitment of $24,000.00! That alone would have kept most producers out of the game before the economy went ‘butt up’. Basing your potential profits on advertisers is risky at best. Getting independent programing a strong enough following to attract advertisers takes time and money for promotional material to bring in viewers. Including your production costs, this will take intense planning and financial backing. This is a valid avenue but you’d better have the resources and drive to push forward. As you implied, the FCC rules aren’t much help in their clairity. The Cable co’s aren’t going to make things easy either so anyone seriously looking at Leased Access had better have a solid plan for moving forward with the resources to back it up. Despite all of the potential hazards, Leased Access is a viable avenue for the more established indy producer to get her/his content into a mainstream avenue.
June 4, 2009 at 6:02 PM #176406
You know what, I’m not even going to go there – though the thought of producing a series is interesting. There are simply too many video business and production alternatives that are simpler and easier, less expensive, more enjoyable and profitable to go there.
June 5, 2009 at 12:04 AM #176407
Composite, I realize I need to put a lot more info on our
association site. Cable sites can’t make you commit to a one year minimum in
fact most wont give you an agreement for more than a year. Actually my firm
insists on executing agreements good for a year, similar to securing an annual
bulk mail permit, and then we only order sometimes one month at a time to
prevent them from forcing us to put up a deposit.
I suspect the bulk of video producers than can profit from
leased access or those that see having one or more local shows as a means of
not only making a modest profit from ads but as a means of promoting their
entire video offerings: weddings, events, corporate, etc. This is also a good way for local businesses
to have self-hosted shows. Take a look at http://www.blabtv.com,
where for 25 years they’ve had a very successful operation with their clients
nearly always hosting their own shows. My firm has a part time programmer that
tapes local wrestling then airs it once a week and has been doing so for over
While it is true some local cable sites do not cooperate I
find that usually when some user is being mistreated and asks me to intervene
we can soon get the site doing right. I simply know the rules very well.
The comments in this thread have me realize I need to do a
FAQ in addition to trying to better explain the rules so any person new to this
can have an easier time getting what is rightfully theirs. We always explain to
cable we want to exercise our right to leased access as provided by the law and
cite the law.
Before I close I’d like to share that this is an inexpensive
way for those that might only want to do a few shows a week on local cable.
I’ll gladly keep trying to answer questions or clear up
where there may be some misinformation being spread by cable so any readers
please feel free to ask.
June 5, 2009 at 5:57 PM #176408
“Cable sites can’t make you commit to a one year minimum in
fact most wont give you an agreement for more than a year.”
Not that I don’t believe you, but I need to see it in writing. It would be far preferable to be able to buy in blocks of a few hours for ‘X’ number of months at a time. But with the rules so sketchy and most cable companies being far more interested in their own profits/control, having that clearly stated in the rules would make a producer’s life that much easier.
“I’d like to share that this is an inexpensive
way for those that might only want to do a few shows a week on local cable.”
I agree this is a potentially viable way to get programming into the mainstream via cable. However, ‘inexpensive’ is a seriously relative term without hard and fast rules to guide pricing. Since this is a commercial avenue for producing content, there are far more factors involved than for your standard ‘cable access’ show. Much more care, planning and resources must be applied to this type of venture even if you’re shooting on the way cheap. For a much more established indy producer with a good track record looking to break into the mainstream this would easily be the next stage to move to. Anyone at a stage less than that had better take a hard long look at what would be needed to get the thing off the ground and keep it going long enough to attract regular paying advertisers. Audiences are mad fickle and the intrepid producer rolling the dice in this game is going to hork up some cash before fielding a winning show. Said producer better have all their ‘corners squared’ and be prepared to lose money before making it.
Despite all of that, I still say this is potentially an excellent way outside of the web to go. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to have a web component as backup (i.e. hulu owned by NBC) for those potential viewers who can’t access your programming on cable. Leased Commercial Access is a damn good idea, but the rules need to be far more plain and any producer interested in going this route had better be serious.
June 9, 2009 at 9:40 PM #176409AnonymousInactive
I got an email from someone in the local Charter office today. Now they’re trying to sell me infomercial space on their “Charter Main Street” channel. I explained again that I’m looking for leased access, and sent links to the FCC pages listed above.
Maybe someday I’ll get a straight answer.
June 9, 2009 at 10:57 PM #176410
“I got an email from someone in the local Charter office today. Now
they’re trying to sell me infomercial space on their “Charter Main
Street” channel. I explained again that I’m looking for leased access,
and sent links to the FCC pages listed above.”
It’s obvious the people you contacted have no idea what you’re talking about. Even if they do, odds are they’re going ‘pinch up’ at the prospect of giving up space required by a law that is as vague as their own lack of knowledge about it. Stay on them and get as much infor as you can wring out of the FCC. It may come to pass that you’ll be the one giving them ‘the straight answer.’
June 11, 2009 at 6:04 PM #176411AnonymousInactive
Yeah, things are slow-going. The gal who sent me the Charter main street info told me that I could run a show on that channel and sell commercial sponsorship for it, so I asker her to send me that rate card, so I had something to look at while I wait for more word on getting leased access. It’s actually faily reasonable, or at least it looks that way. Under $200 per show for a 50,000 home market. Since I’m only planning to do a weekly program, this might be an option if all else fails. However, I’m holding back from saying anything more to her until I hear back from Charter on their leased access rates for the area. Plus, I’m still waiting to hear what 30 second commercial spots will run me, since I’m going to need to promote the show.
The saga continues…
June 11, 2009 at 6:39 PM #176412
“I’m still waiting to hear what 30 second commercial spots will run me, since I’m going to need to promote the show.”
That’s where the bulk of your cash is going to go. I’ve put together packages for clients wanting to advertise on cable and the way you get your message out there using that medium is to have enough slots in the time periods most favorable to catch the eyes of your target audience. And you can’t just do it for a few weeks, it will take months for your ads to truly sink into the consciousness of your potential audience. Since you most likely will not have ‘name talent’ on your program initially, you’ll need time to build your show into a ‘brand name’. To do that, you’ll need some slots in the prime-time frame when most people are watching TV and those slots are pricey. However, depending on what niche you’re trying to fill late-night slots which are much cheaper may work for you (GINSU Knives and GIRLS GONE WILD are prime examples of late-night ads that absolutely worked.)
Budget accordingly my friend and you just might pull this off in high fashion. Good that you’ve found a backup plan with the ‘Charter’ setup if the Leased Access angle goes down in flames.
June 11, 2009 at 7:39 PM #176413AnonymousInactive
Shhh! How’d you know that my show is about Ginsu knive weilding girls gone wild?! So much for those non-disclosure agreements!
But seriously, I expect that the promotion of the show is going to cost far more than the space for the show itself, no matter which way I go. Either way, before I can go sign one contract with show sponsors, I ned to know how much it’s going to cost, since I want to actully make money doing this thing.
September 23, 2017 at 1:03 PM #216180revsjmMember
I have been on Public Access TV in Sacramento California, with my religious programming as author and publish religious books. But the problem with Public Access is too many profit disincentives. You can have a sponsor but they allow you only a couple of seconds in text at the begging and end of the show to recognize them, and you CAN NOT have a “call to action” (ask people to buy your product directly). Also the audience is really limited and you would have to be on many different public access channels to get to 1 million viewers.
I have signed up with Mr. Charlie Stoger email@example.com and my show will be on Leased Access to over 1 million Charter subscribers in LA. Initially for expediency I will use my same content as my 2014/2015 production, but will develop better “Call To Action” oriented material later. I think that more people need to unite with Mr. Stogers operation which will give Indies some clout and A LOT of experience. The main obstacle other than Clue-Less-Ness is the 1 million dollar insurance the Cable Companies demand Indie Producers obtain to be on there network. Mr. Stoger provides a “piggy back” over this requirement and he is already in the pipeline of Cable companies all over the USA, and in touch with the key people. For my money less than $1000 , I will go with a professional like Mr. Stogner that has been doing this for over 30 years. I am excited about the possibilities. The Leased Access Association is the way to go in my opinion.
My Two Cents
Rev. Steve J. Moffett, Sr.
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