The Federal Communications Commission appears to be ready to implement yet another momentous change in the TV business, signaling a willingness to determine whether web-based video distributors might qualify as multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs).
Today the FCC issued a notice that opens up comment on the obscure and long-running dispute between Sky Angel and Discovery Communications. Four years ago, Sky Angel decided to move to web distribution, and met with immediate opposition. Discovery and other programmers subsequently refused to negotiate carriage of their programming with Sky Angel. Sky Angel charges programmers were cutting it off in deference to their cable partners, who Sky Angel says wanted to quash over-the-top competition. Sky Angel filed a complaint against Discovery with the FCC on this matter in 2012.
Today the FCC changed the rules in ex parte comments on Sky Angel’s complaint from restricted to “permit but disclose,” a relatively obscure maneuver that serves to open the proceedings to public comment, and to some extent public scrutiny.
If the FCC adopts such regulations, it would mean that cable programmers and broadcast stations would have to offer over-the-top (OTT) companies the same access to their content that they offer to cable, IPTV, and satellite TV providers.
A decision in favor of Sky Angel could have major implications for companies such as Netflix, Sky Angel and even Aereo, which the Supreme Court considered as effectively the same as an MVPD, although no other branch of government agrees, effectively blocking Aereo from acting as one. Of course, if such companies were to gain MVPD status, that would also have major ramifications for every MVPD now in business. There would also be fallout for companies such as Dish, Sony and Verizon, which are all planning to launch online video services.
Filed Under: Industry regulations