According to multiple sources, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is sending subpoenas to cable operators and other MVPDS seeking information, including program contract information, related to over-the-top video service.
One source said that information included on video pricing, which would make sense given that the subcommittee majority includes long-time cable price critic John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the subcommittee's ranking minority member is Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has criticized cable operators in the past over a variety of issues, including asking for anecdotal evidence from constituents and others about their cable complaints.
Sources said they thought McCaskill was a driving force behind the letters. A McCaskill spokesperson had not returned a call for comment at press time on whether she was seeking the information and, if so, what exactly she was looking for. Matt Owen, chief counsel for the subcommittee, had no comment.
An industry source said the letters had gone to cable operators, but did not know if they went to telco or satellite video operators as well. Another source said they understood some cable operators and at least one satellite operator had gotten one and were expecting all the major players to receive them.
But the Senate is widely expected to take the lead on video issues in Congress' planned bicameral review of communications laws, and over-the-top is expected to figure prominently in that review a the government figures out how to treat over-the top video providers and how ISPs, many of whom are also cable operators with traditional video offerings and their own over-the-top offerings, should treat them. The letters could be a way to collect information in advance of expected Senate hearings on a Communications Act revamp.
The FCC has made it clear that access to competing over-the-top video via broadband nets is a key factor in reviewing proposed mergers among and between cable and telco ISPs and with program distributors.
Programmers who just won a court case blocking the FCC from revealing Comcast and AT&T programming contracts to third parties will now face the potential of those contracts in the hands of a Senate committee, where strategic leaks have been known to happen, pointed out one industry executive speaking on background.