As the American Cable Association (ACA) sees it, “large, powerful programmers require smaller multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to clog their systems with unpopular channels in order to carry channels actually desired by consumers.”
While the view of the ACA may not be universally shared, the ACA — along with independent programmers MAVTV Motorsports Network: One America News Network and AWE; and RIDE TV — have urged the FCC to “address the harms associated with channel bundling.”
RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION (Full text below, for Members Only: Here we go … the battle over bundles is heating up once again. While we don’t wish to antagonize the nine cable TV giants that are part of the National Cable Television Cooperative, we argue that in 2017, bundles are pretty ridiculous.
The ACA and collection of independent networks assert that channel bundling should take precedence over two other areas that the FCC had proposed to address — namely, unconditional “most-favored nation” (MFN) clauses and unreasonable alternative distribution method (ADM) provisions.
ACA President/CEO Matthew M. Polka said, “The FCC’s proposed regulations of unconditional MFN and unreasonable ADM provisions can represent positive steps towards improving the availability of independent programming. The diversity interests identified by the FCC, however, cannot be meaningfully protected without regulations addressing the unreasonable bundling practices of large programmers.”
Thus, it wants the FCC to include regulations limiting “forced bundling by programmers” in the rules adopted through this proceeding.
Putting channel bundling in context, ACA and the programmers believe large programmers force small cable operators to carry numerous channels they would not carry otherwise.
For example, a small cable operator that wants to get the “must-have programming” from Disney/ESPN, FOX, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Turner, Viacom, A&E Networks, AMC, Discovery, and Scripps through the National Cable Television Cooperative buying group “must carry 65 channels at a minimum,” ACA says.
ACA’s comments came in response to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the name “Promoting the Availability of Diverse and Independent Sources of Video Programming.” Adopted Sept. 29, reply comments were due 90 days from its publication in the Federal Register.
To the extent the FCC decides to act on MFNs and ADMs, ACA and the programmers suggested that the Commission restrict large MVPDs only from entering into unconditional MFNs with all “video programming vendors.”
Unconditional MFNs between large MVPDs and large programmers, ACA and the programmers assert, “preclude carriage of independent programmers every bit as much as those forced upon independent programmers themselves.”
The FCC should also examine unconditional MFNs demanded by broadcasters, ACA asks. “These too can operate to preclude carriage of independent programmers,” ACA argues.
“If the FCC is going to restrict ‘unreasonable’ ADMs, it should also specify certain practices as presumptively reasonable,” ACA adds. “For example, the FCC should identify as presumptively reasonable short-term restrictions on distributing programming for free online and conditional ‘MFN-like’ rate protections for MVPDs against rates charged for online distribution.”
RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Here we go … the battle over bundles is heating up once again. While we don’t wish to antagonize the nine cable TV giants that are part of the National Cable Television Cooperative, we argue that in 2017, bundles are pretty ridiculous. With the rise of OTT options and “skinny packages,” the need for a la carte options from an MVPD couldn’t be more clear. Why should anyone have to get a tier with 40 channels that include two channels of interest just to be eligible to get a sports tier, which also may include several channels of no interest to the subscriber? And, why should this cost as much as it does? Because it’s not the MVPD setting this pricing in place as much as it is these nine cable TV channel programmers asserting their muscle. So, the RBR + TVBR Red Card gets thrown to Disney/ESPN, FOX, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Turner, Viacom, A&E Networks, AMC, Discovery, and Scripps for forcing cable TV companies and their customers to get channels they may not want. While we are on the subject, the rise of OTT is sign to us that there are simply too many pay-TV channels. While no one is addressing this, we have no fear in doing so: 2018 and beyond will likely see the “consolidation” or shift to digital-only delivery of some of these bottom-dwelling cable channels. Why? The explosion in programming hasn’t trickled down to these niche players, and that’s not going to change.