More reports on: Entertainment

Federal Communications Commission mulls amendments to expand web video access

29 October 2014

The Federal Communications Commission is considering changes to rules that could guarantee that internet video providers get the same access to premium programming as cable and satellite TV providers, CNET reported.

The changes were proposed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday regarding so-called "over-the-top" internet video services such as those currently being developed by Dish, Sony and Verizon that would treat them on par with cable and satellite TV providers.

"Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch," Wheeler wrote in a blog post yesterday. "The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration -- but first Internet video services need access to the programs."

The proposal would however not apply to on-demand streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu but rather to multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) that offered prescheduled programming.

"Taking advantage of this rule, new [over the top providers] may offer smaller or specialised packages of video programming, so consumers will be able to mix-and-match to suit their tastes."

He said updating the definition of an MVPD will provide consumers with new choices, adding, "And perhaps consumers will not be forced to pay for channels they never watch."

Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reported Wheeler's proposal, unveiled yesterday, was an attempt to up competition in a rapidly evolving industry.

Wheeler's goal was to modernise FCC rules that were adopted in the early 1990s -- long before the internet was envisioned as a viable distribution outlet.

The change could provide non-traditional carriers with access to some of the most popular channels in television. 

According to commentators, the change to widen the definition of a pay-TV provider, known in the industry as a "multichannel video programming distributor" could provide non-traditional carriers with access to some of the most popular channels in television.

The revised definition would include companies that sought to distribute packages of TV channels over the internet, putting them on equal footing with cable TV operators, satellite TV services and telephone companies AT&T and Verizon, that also offered TV packages.

Tech giants, including Google and Apple, had struggled, without much success, to offer a package of television channels to consumers and the efforts could be galvanised through rule change.

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