Keeping VOD Path Clear

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While overbuilders continue to skirmish over their ability to access some regional programming, they're also looking ahead to new products, such as video-on-demand content.

"VOD and pay-per-view content is very important to watch," said Altrio Communications Inc. CEO David Rozzelle. His firm is building out competitive franchises in the Los Angeles suburbs of Pasadena, Monrovia and Arcadia, and intends to build in one franchise territory within the city itself.

"There have been and are efforts by incumbents to lock up that content," he added. "That would give them a significant competitive advantage and it's my understanding, under current law, that they probably can."

That doesn't mean competitors get all of the regional programming now that they would like. For instance, Grande Communications Inc. officials have complained they would like an opportunity to carry the news channel in Austin, Texas, where they have overbuilt the channel's owner, Time Warner Cable.

Competitors also say they're battling for access to satellite networks, even though that is guaranteed by the federal Cable Act. Rozzelle said officials at the Walt Disney Co.-owned SoapNet won't sell him the satellite network for distribution in ZIP codes where he competes with Charter Communications Inc.