Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is the FCC Redefining Television

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing a proposal which could help the fledgling OTT industry by treating certain online video services like cable and satellite TV providers. The move would help the online services gain cheaper access to major network programming and could allow them to become stronger competitors to the dominant pay-TV providers like Comcast.  Gaining rights to popular channels has been a major hurdle for online TV services. Sony Corp. and Dish Network (as previously reported here) are among the companies considering Web-based services to compete with traditional cable and satellite operators. The big issue and cause for some OTT failures like Intel’s exit from its “OnCue” service, is in securing highly coveted programming from ESPN, NBCU, AMC and others is that the networks typically are owned/controlled by the larger MVPD’s (Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision).

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was asked about the matter yesterday and stated that a proposal is circulating among commissioners “is probably a bit of an overstatement.” Nonetheless the industry analysts are buzzing. “This is a very big deal,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst for BTIG. “It could pose very significant challenges to the traditional cable TV bundle.” Paul Gallant, with Guggenheim Securities, said in a note today, that broadcasters such as CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox Inc. would potentially benefit from having more buyers for their programming.

According to an unknown source by Bloomberg, the change would affect online video providers that offer a cable-like programming service on a schedule, and not on-demand services like Netflix, which allows subscribers to watch videos whenever they want. But it could revive the controversial online video service Aereo, which allowed subscribers to watch broadcast TV channels on their computers and Internet connected-TVs.
Although for now this may just be chalked up as a rumor, it is one that would have a broad impact on the business as it is today, a  move which could significantly broaden competition in the MVPD market. More: FierceCable 09/30/14 - Rumor mill:Aereo-like platforms may be given program licensing rights by FCC and/or Variety.com09/29/14 - FCC Wants Some Online Providers to be Treated as Cable Operators

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