Not surprisingly, much of the discussion at the ACA 20TH Anniversary Summit in DC this week centered around retrans. Even the FCC chmn Julius Genachowski recently acknowledged that the rules need a makeover (Cfax, 3/13), despite the potential barrier of the FCC’s restrained authority. With any near-term reform unlikely, indie ops have been looking at alternatives to minimize the impact of retrans blackouts to consumers.
Working with Aereo TV, which allows subs to view live and time-shifted streams of OTA TV on Internet-connected devices, is one alternative to get stations, ACA board members said at the Summit Wed. The problem is that despite potential technical issues, Aereo has other difficulties: Multiple companies are suing the startup. MVPDs such as WOW! have been exploring different types of strategic programming alliances and looking at potential partnerships with companies like Netflix, chmn/CEO Collen Abdoulah said. The problem is that the video streaming company’s agreements with movie studios currently don’t allow it to partner with WOW!, she said. The good news is “they are working on it,” she said. Roku is another possible solution. Wave Broadband has been renting Roku devices to subs in the past year, said COO Steve Friedman.
When it comes to offering OTT programming, a challenge for small ops is the lack of standardized authentication, several ACA board members said. NCTC launched its “Watch TV Everywhere” TVE effort last year for its member companies. However, there have been many different TVE standards across the industry, which becomes barrier for expanding TVE more rapidly, Friedman said.
Alternatives aside, ACA leaders called on the FCC to reform retrans, part of which means addressing media consolidation issues. “Retrans is the effect but consolidation is the cause,” said Abdoulah. The issue isn’t retrans or must-carry, but a “bloody consolidation issue,” she said. The FCC needs a makeover too, which starts with keeping deadlines, board members said. Two petitions that Bob Gessner filed with the Commission have “dragged on for four years,” the MCTV CEO said. The 2-year-old retrans proceeding is another example. Time has passed, but “there’s no smoke coming out of the chimney,” Gessner said.