||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2007)|
||This article may contain original research. (September 2007)|
Syndication exclusivity (also known as syndex) is a federal law in the United States designed to protect a local television station's rights to syndicated television programs by granting exclusive rights to the station for that program in the local market, usually defined by a station's Nielsen DMA. As a result, any airings of the same program on cable networks and superstations must be blocked by the local cable company upon request from the local station. Broadcast television stations have the option of signing programming deals with or without syndex protection, but stand to have audiences significantly diluted in markets without protection.
The first syndex law came into effect in the early-1970s. The law at the time was similar to the present-day law, except that it applied to almost all programming, including shows such as the Jerry Lewis Telethon. WTBS in Atlanta, the original "superstation", had programming blacked out in some areas where duplication existed.
In 1980, the FCC lifted the old syndex law, as a way to bolster the growing cable TV market. This led to cable systems picking up more superstations and more regional out-of-market independents, at a time when the popularity of both was growing.
The current syndex law was tied in part to the Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1988. In the run-up to that legislation's passage, Tom Meek of WOFL-TV Orlando, with the assistance of Preston Padden of INTV, presented a study utilizing custom Nielsen audience data showing significant ratings dilution in the 7-8 p.m. time period directly attributable to the carriage of identical programming via WGN-TV Chicago on numerous local cable systems, with an estimated loss of several hundred thousand dollars in advertising revenue. The legislation, H.R. 2848, had been blocked by the late representative Mike Synar (D-OK), who represented the district including United Video, WGN's satellite carrier, headquartered in Tulsa. After the study was presented to and subsequently validated by Synar's staff, Synar dropped his opposition under pressure from committee chairman Rep. Al Swift (D-WA). H.R. 2848, sponsored by Rep. John Bryant (D-TX), then passed.
Before the reimposition of the syndex rules, stations like WGN and WTBS were paying local single market rates for programming, but gaining national coverage, and were selling that extended coverage to advertisers. After syndex, in at least some cases, pricing paid by superstations better reflected their actual national distribution, depending on arrangements with any given syndicator.
There have been a number of legal cases, most notably in Miami, Florida, and efforts in Washington, D.C. by terrestrial broadcasters to keep satellite providers from exploiting a provision in the law where satellite providers can offer programming where a broadcast station's signal is not available. In the Miami case, satellite providers were found to have allowed carriage of outside stations in households within a few miles of broadcast transmitters in violation of the law. Syndex is often unpopular with satellite subscribers and companies who would rather not afford local broadcast stations program rights protection.
Syndex is currently being used to block Dish Network superstations from being picked up in certain markets. In this case, the CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates in given markets can invoke the syndex law to keep the superstations affiliated with the same network from coming into the market in any form. CW stations are using the law in order to block KTLA, WPIX, and KWGN, while WWOR-TV and WSBK-TV are presently blocked in markets where MyNetworkTV affiliates are invoking the law.
Notable examples 
- Syndex also applies to programs seen on stations in Canada and Mexico—in the Buffalo, New York television market, when CFTO-TV or CIII-TV airs a program that is also seen on an American broadcast network, the Canadian broadcast is blacked out, or replaced with the signal of the American station carrying the same program at that time. (Note that this does not apply to most sports on cable, especially if they are different productions from one another, unless the league for that sport requests a blackout; Buffalo Sabres games carried on CBC Television's Hockey Night in Canada and on MSG Network can be seen on both channels.)
- During the October 2008 dispute with LIN TV Corporation and Time Warner Cable, CBS programming (most notably NFL on CBS games, including the Buffalo Bills) were blacked out in the Buffalo market due to LIN and Time Warner not coming to terms with a new contract. Despite this, WIVB-TV (a LIN-owned station and CBS affiliate) was still allowed to enforce syndex and prevent other CBS affiliates or CFTO from being brought into the market. CFTO was allowed to carry games in Niagara County, WSEE-TV in Chautauqua County, WBNG in Steuben County, and WROC-TV in Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties. Time Warner customers in Erie, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties, whose only CBS affiliate is WIVB, have been completely blacked out; in the latter two counties, because of terrestrial reception issues, antennas cannot be used, leaving satellite television (which still carried WIVB) as the only choice.
- A similar rule, simultaneous substitution, exists in Canada, allowing broadcasters to require that US feeds of shows airing at exactly the same time on a Canadian network to be replaced with the Canadian feed. This is intended to protect Canadian advertising revenue.
- Sporting events that air on a national network such as ESPN are often blacked out in the markets of teams playing if their local channels also have rights to the game. For example, a weeknight baseball game between the Cubs and Cardinals carried by ESPN would be blacked out in areas that receive either team's local channel. In another case, ESPN's ACC Wednesday is blacked out in markets that receive coverage of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball on local stations via Raycom Sports. In such instances, the ESPN feed is usually replaced with ESPNEWS. A 2012 deal reached between ESPN and Major League Baseball will virtually eliminate local blackouts during the network's Monday and Wednesday night games, allowing ESPN coverage to co-exist with the local broadcaster's in home markets beginning in 2014.
Some effects of syndex 
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, several local independent stations were uplinked via satellite so that they can be available either nationally or regionally. Three of those stations, WOR-TV/WWOR-TV in New York City (later moved to Secaucus, NJ), WGN-TV in Chicago, and WTBS in Atlanta were available nationally. WTBS aired shows that are generally "syndex proof" (or, in simpler terms, having "full signal rights") due to program contracts they are able to negotiate so that they wouldn't have to worry about being covered up at all, save for sports programs. In 1990, when the syndex law was passed, national versions of WWOR-TV and WGN-TV, which aired different programs from their native city versions, were launched. WWOR's national feed outside of New York was branded as "WWOR EMI Service." WGN-TV didn't have to cover up as many programs as WWOR did, and while WGN was able to carry The WB on their national feed from 1995 to 1999, WWOR was not permitted by UPN to carry their programming on the EMI feed. After the national version of WWOR ceased uplinking, the native feed, which included UPN and other shows previously covered up on the EMI feed, was uplinked by a different company because it was now only available on satellite. (That feed was discontinued in 1999, though the original version can still be seen on Dish Network.) WTBS was eventually separated from the national feed of TBS, and now airs only Atlanta-cleared programming as WPCH. WGN dropped The WB from its national superstation feed in 1999. WGN's national superstation feed, Superstation WGN, would be renamed WGN America in 2007.
Syndex-free/full signal rights 
In any case, national superstations such as WGN can, in the present day, still sometimes negotiate full signal rights for a syndicated program. Whether or not a particular program can be cleared for full signal rights depends on how it was originally sold to other stations nationwide. For example, the re-packed American Idol Rewind was allowed to air on WGN's national "Superstation" signal by virtue of Tribune Entertainment (the station's owner) being a majority partner as well as the program distributor.
Other studios can also allow full signal rights to superstations for its programming. For example, 20th Television allowed WGN full signal rights to the syndicated version of 24, Sony Pictures Television the same method for Seinfeld for TBS, and so on.
However, once one superstation's term of license on a program ends, it can enter into syndex restrictions. For example, for decades TBS had full signal rights to The Andy Griffith Show until Viacom's networks were able to negotiate new full signal rights in the mid-1990s (the Griffith show at the time was distributed by Viacom, then its successor, Paramount Television). Today, TV Land has national rights to the Griffith show (now distributed through CBS Paramount Television), and under this new contract cannot be seen on any other national network or superstation, but it can still be seen on local over-the-air channels, as stations such as Raleigh's WRAL/WRAZ and WVTV in Milwaukee have done for decades. Airing on these local channels is only restricted to their particular markets.
See also 
- Simultaneous substitution -- Canadian technique of placing a Canadian signal over the American signal on cable and satellite
- Blackout (broadcasting) -- for blackouts of sporting events