The FCC has voted unanimously to propose eliminating the requirement that cable operators provide their subs at least 30 days notice of a TV station channel coming off their systems, changing it to notice “as soon as possible” given that retrans deals are often struck in the 11th hour. It must still collect comment on the proposal and vote on a final order, but that will almost certainly happen.
Previously populated by the likes of cable, MMDS and broadcast satellite operators, the MVPD universe is set to be redefined by the FCC to include services “untethered” from any infrastructure-based definition … if, that is, a proposal laid out in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last month (and just published in the Federal Register) takes hold. The result should expand consumer options for video program service.
The commission’s rulemaking proposal includes certain online-delivered video in the definition, designed to level the playing field for the distribution of video programming.
With votes coming any day now, the FCC could be primed to begin a process that would give online video providers like FilmOn and Aereo access to some of the advantages enjoyed by cable and satellite TV services.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a proposal to commissioners that would update the definition of MVPDs to be technology-neutral and change the FCC’s video competition rules to encourage over-the-top innovation and consumer choice, allowing online video service providers that offer linear channels of streaming content to have the same access to programming owned by cable operators and the same ability to negotiate to carry broadcast TV stations. He explains in the FCC Blog.
Major cable companies are getting worried they could face stiffer competition from online video, thanks to a new government proposal. The FCC is working on a plan to give online TV services all of the same regulatory perks that cable companies get. Putting online companies on equal footing with cable providers like Comcast could usher in a new wave of competition in the TV industry — potentially meaning more choices and lower prices for consumers.
With the groundbreaking news that HBO and CBS would offer standalone streaming services, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday was asked repeatedly about whether the agency would weigh in on the fast-growing market for online video. “It’s the right question. Stay tuned,” Wheeler teased reporters after the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting. “It’s something we’re very involved in. We have been looking at the entire question of ‘What is an MVPD?’ ”
Aereo Inc. asked the FCC to change the definition of a multichannel video program distributor to help the startup find a way to resume operations. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Aereo’s digital streaming service violated broadcasters’ copyrights, Aereo is now seeking permission to operate like a cable TV provider. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other officials on Oct. 8 to advocate for online programming to be added to the MVPD definition.
Multichannel video programming distributors struggle to escape subscriber doldrums, losing more than 360,000 customers.
That’s why I think the FCC’s Sky Angel proceeding — in which it’s considering whether it should regulate online video distributors like Sky Angel just as it now does cable and satellite operators — is so important. It could give stations a big and badly needed boost toward the Internet and on all those millions of desktops and mobile screens.
In a move that could have far-reaching implications for the development of new distribution systems for content, the FCC is considering changing how it defines a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD).
The regulatory issue that was talked about privately and extensively by broadcasters and their lawyers at NAB this week was the FCC’s request for comments on the definition of multichannel video program distributor (MVPD). If the FCC finds that Internet distributors are MVPDs, just like cable and satellite operators, then they will be subject to retransmission consent. Bottom line: Stations will be assured of controlling the distribution of their signals on the Internet, even if Internet distributors are granted the compulsory license.