American Cable Association executives met with the new chief of the FCC Media Bureau, Bill Lake, last week, to make their case against bundling of programming, Internet business models they argue boost costs to operators and consumers, and retransmission-consent fees they say fall disproportionately more heavily on smaller operators.
ACA has singled out ESPN360 as one of those services that could drive up retail prices and drive down broadband adoption, saying at the recent Independent Cable Show that the association was "drawing a line in the sand."
But ESPN parent Disney has called the claims unsubstantiated and an attempt to get valuable programming for free. "We don't force distributors small or large to carry any of our product," David Preschlack, executive VP, affiliate sales and marketing, for Disney and ESPN Media Networks, told MCN back in June. "ESPN360.com is a business that would simply not exist except for this economic model."
Led by ACA president Matt Polka and ACA chairman Steve Friedman of Wave Broadband, the ACA contingent, which also included former Multichannel News Washington bureau chief and now top ACA executive Ted Hearn, also talked about the set-top waivers that have allowed box makers to offer lower cost boxes without running afoul of the FCC's rule that the channel-surfing and security functions of such boxes must be separated.
ACA supports the waiver because they say allowing the lower-cost boxes will help them move more quickly to digital delivery, which frees up bandwidth for other uses, like broadband and HD.
The FCC has issued a number of such waivers recently, and has signaled it would approve more.