Giving OTT Companies Equal Footing -- Almost -- To Traditional Pay TV Providers

So the good news for wannabe Internet TV services is that the head of the Federal Communications Commission likes the idea of giving those services the same access to programming that cable and satellite operators currently enjoy.

Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to "modernize our interpretation of the term 'multichannel video programming distributor' so that it is technology-neutral," and cover over-the-top video providers.

But what isn’t mentioned is the downside. Now those Internet TV services -- including a possible revamped Aereo -- will need to deal with those companies that control a lot of Internet access.

So, is the playing field really even? Well, you can’t be greedy. Back in June, Aereo’s prospects were virtually dead when the Supreme Court ruled against the Internet TV service’s efforts to take TV network signals for free as a main part of its business plan.

The FCC would like to see a technologically neutral TV access world -- which makes sense. But the more fuzzy area continues to be Internet-access -- even with plans to make the Net a neutral place for businesses to work in, a goal the FCC also wants. Some like Netflix went above and beyond to make sure it had a more direct, speedier video connection -- no buffing, no delay -- with the big Internet providers. Its first deal was with none other than the biggest TV cable operator in the land, Comcast Corp. Later it made another one with Verizon. Oh yeah, they have a pay TV service as well.

Down the road then, you can see the potential for problems. Perhaps Aereo too will be in need of a more direct video Internet connection for its future video service. Interesting talks will prevail with Comcast, who not only owns cable systems but also a broadcast TV network, NBC -- which wasn’t all that happy with Aereo taking its TV station signals in the first place.

But business dealings -- big money -- can smooth over awkward issues among friends, enemies, and frenemies.

Of course, should the FCC, in fact, broaden its rule over who can call themselves a MVPD -- multi-channel video program distributor -- you can be sure that other “rules” will be started up to make sure of an even more level playing ground.

And then all we need to do is wait for some future TV programming service where these new rules won’t apply. And we’ll have the same head-scratching all over again.



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