Is Over-the-Top Pay TV?

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DirecTV has raised the question of whether
Netflix-ready set-tops and other broadband-connected
video devices be subjected to the same government mandates
that are being proposed for cable and satellite boxes.

The satellite-TV giant asked the Federal Communications
Commission to clarify whether its video-navigation
rules — which cover “multichannel video programming
distributors,” a phrase traditionally used to refer to cable,
satellite and telco TV companies — would apply also to
Internet-connected devices like Roku set-tops.

DirecTV’s Feb. 2 inquiry specifically relates to the FCC’s
proposed AllVid regulations, which would require MVPDs
to conform to an interoperable, nationwide standard for providing
third-party consumer-electronics devices access to
programming and related information. AllVid would supersede
the FCC’s current CableCard rules that apply only
to MSOs.

With the rhetorical thrust, DirecTV is either hoping to
have the FCC extend the AllVid rules to would-be competitors
like Netflix or Apple TV, or trying to point out the
quixotic task of devising a single approach that applies to
dozens of diverse providers.

In this case, the definition of an MVPD “is no mere semantic
debate, as the outcome will have material consequences
in this proceeding,” DirecTV said.

According to DirecTV, “Th e universe of those who qualify
as an ‘MVPD’ remains unknown,” and may apply to
online video distributors such as Roku. Th e Internet settop
maker recently announced that it has sold 1 million
units, and delivered 1 billion streams of video programming
from more than 135 sources, including Netflix, Hulu
Plus and Amazon Video on Demand.

“If the commission required MVPDs to make their content
available to all AllVid devices on a disaggregated basis,
would device manufacturers be given access to Roku’s
content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to present any
way those manufacturers saw fit?” DirecTV asked.

Cable, satellite and telco TV operators oppose AllVid,
arguing the rules would introduce significant compliance
costs. Last month, the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association said in comments filed with the FCC that
video is already moving online and across a plethora of devices
— without the need for government intervention in
the form of AllVid.

If online video distributors, or OVDs, are included in the
MVPD universe, then the AllVid rules must take that into
account, DirecTV pointed out.