This week, the American Cable Association urged the FCC to take a better look at “forced bundling.” Three independent programmers joined with the association that represents small- and medium-sized operators to say the practice is the ”single most important obstacle to a thriving marketplace for independent programming.”
“The record so far reveals the widespread agreement that the FCC must address forced bundling of unwanted channels to meaningfully aid diverse and independent programming, and the viewers who value such programming. Bundling is the principal concern not just of ACA’s members, but also of the independent programmers themselves,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka says.
ACA set forth its views in joint reply comments filed on Feb. 22 with MAVTV Motorsports Network; co-owned One America News Network, and AWE (formerly WealthTV); and Ride TV. The parties filed these reply comments in an FCC rulemaking that is focused on ways to promote the availability of diverse and independent sources of video programming.
ACA and the independent programmers report that if an operator seeks to carry desirable channels owned by the nine largest media groups, it will end up having to carry a minimum of 65 channels. They further state that this channel bundling can lead to the elimination of providers’ abilities to carry independent programmers. “Making things worse, the less-popular conglomerate channels often feature marathon runs of warmed-over content that once aired elsewhere, rather than original programming offered by independent channels,” ACA reports in a statement.
ACA and the programmers says that the FCC’s failure to address channel bundling first would likely mean even the most effective regulations targeting market-distorting “most-favored nation” (MFN) clauses and unreasonable alternative distribution method (ADM) provisions would prove unavailing. They also point out that carriage negotiations cannot even begin if capacity constraints caused by bundling mean the service provider cannot carry the channel under any offered terms.
“At a minimum, the FCC should eliminate bundling from the list of conduct that is presumptively consistent with good faith conduct in broadcast carriage talks. This practice has real, anti-competitive implications, making it more difficult for channels not affiliated with a top-rated broadcast station to obtain carriage,” Polka adds.
Filed Under: Industry regulations