Verizon: Netflix Approach Shows Why New Set-Top Rules Aren't Needed

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Could Internet-connected TVs become substitutes for operator-leased set-top boxes?

Market forces probably will outpace any regulation on on the set-top front, Verizon said in comments filed Tuesday with the FCC. The telco was voicing opposition to the agency’s AllVid proposal that would force pay-TV providers deliver services to customers using common technical standards (see FCC AllVid Rule Would ‘Ban The Set-Top As We Know It’: Analyst and Death Row For the Integrated Set-Top).

Specifically, Verizon cited Netflix’s successful strategy to embed its over-the-top streaming video service into a wide array of devices as a “superb example of how content is making its way to a variety of consumer electronic devices.”

Compared with “technology mandates or other heavy-handed regulation,” Verizon said, “[t]he Netflix approach shows one way that video distributors, content owners, and device manufacturers can work together to increase the range of choices available for consumers.”

No kidding.

The Netflix Internet-streaming service currently is available in more than 100 different devices, including PCs, TiVos, Xbox 360s, PlayStation3s, Nintendo Wiis, Rokus, iPhones, iPads, and numerous HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players (see our recent Q&A with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos). “Smart video devices, including Internet-connected televisions, have the potential to become substitutes for leased set-top boxes,” Verizon said.

Verizon is the latest to weigh in against AllVid, an idea that is supported by the likes of TiVo, the Consumer Electronics Association and various consumer advocacy groups.

Earlier this summer the NCTA cautioned the agency against “premature standardization” and argued that the AllVid notice of inquiry “suggests unworkable (and unlawful) elements of disaggregation and disintermediation of the cable business.” Cablevision said proposed AllVid rules would hurt innovation “if new capabilities and functionalities are tethered to an AllVid adapter designed by committee” (see FCC’s AllVid: Obsolete on Day One and Cable Ops On Set-Tops: Don’t Fence Us In).

In its filing this week, Verizon noted that it supports “the growing convergence between the television and the Internet,” pointing out that it provides some Internet video content to FiOS TV subscribers (see FiOS Flicks On YouTube).

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