ACA resists MVPD status for online competitors

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ACA / American Cable AssociationThe American Cable Association believes that conferring full MVPD status on pure-play online distributors would be disruptive and unreasonable – it called on the FCC to leave its definition intact as is.


ACA says Congressional and agency precedent clearly establishes the principle of separating traditional “facilities-based” MVPDs from internet-based sources of programming.

“Giving OVDs the same regulatory status as cable operators under the law would be an unreasonable interpretation of the law,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “Far reaching and disruptive consequences would result from imposing MVPD status on OVDs, because regulatory requirements crafted with wholly different business models and network configurations would apply by their terms to OVDs.”

ACA bases its objection to classifying services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube as MVPDs hinges on the fact that they transmit over a medium over which they do not exercise ultimate control.

The organization summarized an FCC filing, stating, “ACA explained that the best interpretation of the term MVPD was provided by the Media Bureau itself – namely, that an MVPD is an entity that makes available to subscribers a transmission path over which it provides multiple channels of video programming. ACA stood by its view that an OVD that offers ‘video programming’ and nothing else is not an MVPD because it isn’t using its own transmission path and isn’t offering a physical ‘channel’ as that term is defined in the law and in FCC regulations.”

ACA is calling for broad rulemaking that gives all stakeholders an opportunity to participate. “If after conducting such an industry-wide rulemaking the FCC concludes that inclusion of OVDs under the ambit of the term ‘MVPD’ is unsupported by the law and legislative history, then the matter properly becomes one for decision by Congress,” Polka said.

RBR-TVBR observation: We joked about the Washington tendency to fight over a simple definition, but it is true that there is a lot more cash tied to a legal definition than to the kind that Noah Webster used to come up with.

Incumbent MVPDs will have a natural resistance to anything that bolsters a new competitor in their space. Broadcasters could actually benefit from new competition, but not if it enters the field without the obligations currently attached to the incumbent MVPDs.

So what no doubt looks likes a ridiculously small-minded red tape fight to the average American will be watched with great interest in the communications community.