FCC Quizzes Ivi CEO On Comcast/NBCU Online Access Issue


The Federal Communications Commission sought out ivi TV CEO Todd Weaver to talk about the Comcast/NBCU merger's online content access implications, according to a spokesman for the company.

"We were approached," said Hal Bringman of a meeting with FCC staffers about what ivi described as Comcast's "contractual roadblocks" in cable carriage deals that prevent programmers from also streaming that content through ivi's online video site.

According to a filing with the FCC about the conversation, Weaver talked with staffers from the FCC's Media Bureau, General Counsel's office and Office of Strategic Planning. Weaver argued that those "roadblocks" have prevented it from building its business and "hampered the consumer's ability to obtain lower cost television programming."

Some Comcast deal critics have argued that the FCC needs to consider applying conditions to the deal that guarantee nondiscriminatory access to online programming.

Weaver supplied a list of the cable channels he said had some kind of online exclusivity provisions in their Comcast contracts or were concerned about steps Comcast could take to disadvantage their channels if they struck online deals outside of the contract, or had trouble striking deals with Comcast. They included channels that already have a carriage bone to pick with the company over traditional carriage -- Tennis Channel and Wealth TV -- as well as the Documentary Channel, Univision, and Northwest Cable News.

Comcast points out that it has a long-term contract with Tennis Channel that mirrors those of other operators.The nation's largest distributor also notes that most major operators don't carry Wealth TV at all, and that an FCC administrative law judge has already found their programming carriage complaint to be without merit (the full commission has yet to rule, however).

Ivi TV is currently battling the major networks, their associated studios, and at least one broadcaster/cable operator (Cox) for copyright infringement. Ivi argues that it has the right to retransmit TV station content without negotiating an individual retransmission consent agreement, asserting a right under copyright law as an online multichannel video operator, but arguing it does not fit the FCC's definition of a cable operator subject to retransmission-consent/must carry rules.