FCC's Media Bureau Issues Video Competition Report

Republicans decry 'bypassing' full commission vote for first time

The FCC has released its 17th annual -- though it has not always been released annually -- report on the state of video competition.

Per usual, the report does not say whether it is competitive, but instead summarizes the business models and strategies in various sectors and provides financial and operating data. It is based on data from year-end 2013 through the end of 2014.

But per unusual, the report was released by the Media Bureau rather than the full commission, which the minority commissioners saw as a way to sneak it out the door.

The FCC found that the most significant trends since the last report are "the continuing development, and consumer usage, of time and location shifted viewing of video programming, the expansion of digital and high definition programming, and the progress of the online video industry."

Continuing a trend from the last report, which marked the first-ever decline in video subs, the FCC found that cable MVPD subscribership continued to decline.

From year-end 2013 to year-end 2014, the total number of MVPD video subs dropped from 101.7 million households to 101.6 million, with cable subs down from 55.1 million to 53.7 million. By contrast, telco video subs rose from 11.8 million to 13.2 million households and DBS subs held steady at 34.4 million households.

The report was released late Friday, and for the first time was done on delegated authority, rather than having the commissioners vote on it.

That did not sit well with the Republican commissioners.

"Who’s afraid of a Commission vote?," they asked in a joint statement. "Charged by Congress in 1992 with the duty to provide an annual report on the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming, the Commission today, for the first time, punts this responsibility to the Media Bureau instead of bringing the proposed report to the Commissioners for a vote, as has occurred 16 times in the past."

But they weren't done.

"Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this move to sneak out the door on a Friday afternoon 117 pages of rationalizations for the Commission’s various ill-advised attempts to micromanage a market that is objectively more vibrant and competitive than at any time in history. After all, the last two Wireless Competition Reports met the same fate. It’s bad enough that our input on circulated and meeting items is typically ignored, but this disturbing trend of skipping the Eighth Floor entirely must be reversed, and is worthy of Congressional attention."