The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
Set Top Box Competition
The FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) intended to pave the way for software, devices, and other innovative solutions to compete with the set-top boxes that a majority of consumers lease from pay-TV providers today. The NPRM provides the framework to “unlock the box” for innovators to create competitive solutions – either hardware or software-based apps — that give consumers freedom of choice. Among other things, it recommends that pay-TV providers be required to deliver three core information streams:
- Service discovery: Information about what programming is available to the consumer, such as the channel listing and video-on-demand lineup, and what is on those channels.
- Entitlements: Information about what a device is allowed to do with content, such as recording.
- Content delivery: The video programming itself.
These three streams would be available to the creators of competitive solutions using any published, transparent format that conforms to specifications set by an independent, open standards body. The NPRM also includes a billing transparency rule to ensure that consumers understand their monthly charges for both programming services and equipment lease fees in accordance with §629 of the Communications Act.
Video Programming Diversity
The FCC adopted a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) “to begin a conversation on the state of independent and diverse programming.” The NOI solicits comment on the principal challenges independent video programmers face in gaining carriage of their content on both traditional and emerging distribution platforms. The NOI invites comment on various issues including the following:
- Contractual provisions often contained in program carriage agreements, such as most favored nation (MFN), and alternative distribution method (ADM) clauses;
- Distribution via over the top (OTT) platforms and the costs and benefits of foregoing multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) carriage to pursue OTT carriage;
- Program bundling (i.e., the practice by some content companies of requiring MVPDs or other distributors to carry large bundles in order to gain access to marquee programming);
- Negotiation tactics alleged to be common among MVPDs that may impede the ability of independent programmers to obtain carriage; and
- Claims that MVPDs discriminate against public, educational, or government access (PEG) programming by failing to make PEG programming, and information about this programming, adequately available to subscribers.