Cable’s take on new virtual MVPDs


Cable / SatelliteBoth the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association weighed in on the FCC’s NPRM on letting linear internet program bundlers into the MVPD game. The reactions were notably different.

One was concerned that they might get in the game without the same kind of baggage existing MVPDs carry; the other that they might get regulatory help that it would like extended to its own members.

NCTA noted that it has a “social compact” and wonders how the FCC intends to enforce similar obligations on new internet entrants into the business.

The association stated, “In today’s video marketplace, consumers are reaping the benefits of robust competition and an ever expanding menu of video options. Redefining what it means to be an MVPD raises profound questions about how government will extend regulation to Internet video services and how any would-be virtual MVPDs will meet their ‘social compact’ obligations. With so many unknowns, the FCC should take great care in any such examination so as to avoid creating new problems that would result in unintended consequences and would fail to honor principles of competitive neutrality among rival providers.”

ACA, on the other hand, noted that program access is noted as a major issue in the proceeding, and adds that it is also an issue for its members, which include smaller cable companies. It wants any help extended to internet MVPDs on this score extended to its own National Cable Television Cooperative, which already faces this very issue.

ACA’s Matt Polka said, “With today’s announcement regarding a new technology-neutral definition of a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), the American Cable Association is hopeful that FCC Chairman Wheeler will also direct the Media Bureau to finish work on the FCC’s longstanding proposal to reform its program access rules.

“This action is needed to effectuate Congress’ intent that the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) — a cable programming buying group used by nearly all small and medium-sized MVPDs — receives the same program access protections that Chairman Wheeler recognizes are vital to the ability of over-the-top video programming distributors to enter and compete in this market.

“Hundreds of small MVPDs that are also broadband Internet service providers — including dozens of new competitive entrants in the market that joined NCTC in the last few years — would benefit from reform of the FCCs program access and, as a result, would be better positioned to continue their broadband deployment efforts.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Points well taken. If qualifying internet services are going to get the same status as the incumbents, they should be forced to accept that status under the same terms.

That includes the obligation to pay for the programming that the internet MVPD is passing through to its subscribers via an open market negotiation process.