Tags: pay | TV | FCC | rules

FCC Chief: Let's Redefine Pay TV

By    |   Saturday, 01 Nov 2014 05:48 PM

A proposal by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler would let technology companies like Google and Apple offer pay-TV services like cable and satellite firms.

"Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch," Wheeler said Friday in a blog post that introduced his plan to modify the agency's definition of a multi-channel video provider. "The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration — but first Internet video services need access to the programs."

The post by Wheeler, who took over the FCC in November 2013, was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

His plan would seek to redefine the definition of a pay-TV distributor to include companies that transmit television programming on the Internet, the Times reports. As a result, tech companies would gain access to some of the most popular channels in television.

Besides modernizing FCC rules that were adopted in the early 1990s before the rise of the Internet, Wheeler's plan seeks to create more competition in an industry that has been long dominated by a small number of giant cable and satellite TV companies.

Any rule change must be approved by the full five-member commission.

The proposal would allow companies that are seeking to distribute TV channels over the Internet to also be defined as a "multi-channel video programming distributor."

The move would, in essence, level the playing field — placing Internet companies on the same level as satellite, cable and other companies that provide programs via telephone companies, the Times reports.

The commission's current rules were adopted to carry out Congress' desire to prevent cable firms from using their size to block satellite TV, which was a new technology at the time, according to the report.

Some analysts, however, remained wary that the broadened classification would result in lower subscriptions for pay-TV viewers, since content providers set the terms regarding the distribution of their channels.

"Symbolically, it is important that the FCC is recognizing that the world has changed and that these new providers should be able to operate on an equal footing with legacy distributors," Jim Nail, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, told the Times. "But the practical effect might not be far-reaching."

The terms set by such companies as NBCUniversal, CBS, and Walt Disney include the prices that distributors like DirecTV and Dish pay to carry those channels.

"Will the content providers have any incentive to give new distributors any better terms than they now give the current distributors?" Nail asked. "At the end of the day, you might be paying the same ridiculous amount for a package of TV channels."

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A proposal by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler would let technology companies like Google and Apple offer pay-TV services like cable and satellite firms. Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they...
pay, TV, FCC, rules
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2014-48-01
Saturday, 01 Nov 2014 05:48 PM
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