Specifically, incumbent providers seem to be thwarting efforts of Intel, Apple and Google to forge deals with programmers for “virtual” multichannel video program distribution systems. Such systems would be similar to current cable/satellite bundles, but distributed over the Internet, and without hardware like satellite dishes.
At least one company -- Time Warner -- apparently demands that some media companies refuse to provide content to would-be virtual providers. CEO Glenn Britt reportedly said this week that the company's contracts with some programmers may prohibit them from offering programs for online streaming.
The news led BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield to ask whether the Federal Trade Commission will investigate incumbent multi video programming distributors. “We have been surprised and disappointed to learn that one of the key impediments to the launch of a virtual MVPD is the traditional MVPDs themselves,” he writes in a new report.
He adds that, regardless of the legalities, prohibiting programmers from licensing content to tech companies is “bad for consumers, as it limits competition and prevents the emergence of distributors who can provide revolutionary new ways of experiencing live linear and on-demand TV.”
The news also spurred advocacy group Public Knowledge to call for antitrust enforcement against incumbent providers. “The video industry has been slow to evolve because of a complicated tangle of contracts, relationships, and regulation, made worse by consolidation and concentration,” senior staff attorney John Bergmayer writes today. “Things are getting better but the evolution is slow. There's a lot that policymakers can do to help it along, but one start would be to apply existing law to prevent anti-competitive restrictions that prevent programmers from distributing their content more widely.”