Comments on the state of video competition were due at the FCC Fri, and as you’d expect, the Commission got an earful. While NCTA, Verizon and AT&T talked up growing competition in the marketplace, the Writers Guild of America, West said video programming remains consolidated and lacks sufficient competition at all levels, with broadcast, cable and pay TV networks "owned by a handful of companies."
In a 90-page filing, the Guild said the FCC should deny the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and complained that online video offerings are being threatened from incumbent providers. "Comcast’s ability to blackout one-third of television viewers would force networks to agree to terms and rates set by Comcast, harming investment in programming. A merged Comcast-Time Warner would also control approximately 30% of the broadband Internet market, giving the company the means to limit competition from online video providers like Netflix and Amazon," WGAW said.
Overall, the Guild believes MVPDs want to limit online video offerings, using measures such as data caps, to discourage Internet video consumption. It wants the definition of an MVPD to be expanded. While WGAW said it is encouraged by DISH‘s recent OTT deal with Disney, it is concerned that only larger incumbents like DISH have the power to negotiate such deals. "A change in the MVPD definition would help with content licensing, ensuring these virtual MVPD efforts become a reality," the Guild said. It also suggests the FCC require broadcasters to devote at least 25% of their primetime schedule to independently produced content, promulgate Open Internet rules (including through Title II) and keep retrans in place.
Verizon, which bought Intel‘s OTT platform, told the Commission it should keep OTT, IP-based video services free of regulatory and technology mandates. It believes the Media Bureau was correct when it ruled these types of services aren’t MVPDs in the Sky Angel case. But it wants the agency to go further and ensure that the finding applies to all such providers. WGAW argues that Sky Angel and Aereo should be subject to the same rules so that they have the same access to programming (including negotiating retrans). Verizon also argues that MVPDs that offer a traditional service (like say, FiOS) should be able to enter the OTT market on the same terms as other online video providers, provided the OTT service is available separately from the broadband service it offers (such as the Intel OnCue service).
ACA pushed for the FCC to report on the role of buying groups like NCTC and to argue that vertical integration is on the rise between cable ops and programming entities. It believes the FCC’s video competition report should also look at small cable ops exiting the business. Data from ACA and NCTC found that between 2008 and 2012, nearly 800 member cable systems serving 35K+ subs had closed, leaving those communities without wireline MVPD service.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally appeared in CableFAX Daily. Go here to subscribe.