ANA Weighs In Against Plan To Unlock Cable Boxes

The Federal Communications Commission's proposal to issue new set-top-box rules that would enable people to more easily watch television programs on tablets and smart TVs has drawn praise from the White House and consumer advocates.

The cable industry, on the other hand, vehemently opposes the FCC's proposal to "unlock" set-top boxes. Cable companies -- which garner an estimated $20 billion annually in box-rental fees -- says new rules aren't necessary because consumers can access a broad array of programs via apps. This week, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it will ask a court to block new set-top-box rules if the FCC moves forward.

Today, the ad industry group Association of National Advertisers sided with the cable companies. The organization says in an FCC filing that the proposed rules "have great potential to impact the advertising segment of our economy in very significant and undesirable ways."



The group adds that the FCC's proposal "is not consistent with existing rights and obligations regarding protected material" and "it interferes with the free expression of views that is a hallmark of our society."

The ANA argues that the FCC proposal, as currently written, would allow third parties to treat programs as their own, and then change the ads associated with those programs.

"Because the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] permits access to content by a party that is not bound by the original advertising agreement, it appears that an accessing party will be able to alter or manipulate the original advertisement through such actions as inserting additional advertising, using unrestricted overlays, banners or other features," the ANA writes. "Likewise, the accessing party could block a competing party’s ads or otherwise disturb the integrity of the material. Also, the technologies used by the accessing party might make ad blocking or other intrusion into the ad’s integrity easier."

The ANA mentions in its comments that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said the rules will prohibit device-makers from inserting additional ads or otherwise interfering with existing agreements regarding content. But, according to the ANA, the wording of the proposal doesn't back up those promises.

"We urge the Commission not to take any action that could have the unintended effect of chilling television and ad-supported cable, jeopardizing contractual rights and obligations that thereby are highly likely to undermine the content marketplace," he writes.

3 comments about "ANA Weighs In Against Plan To Unlock Cable Boxes".
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  1. Jim Garrity from BridgeTwoWorlds, LLC, April 22, 2016 at 5:35 p.m.

    I am a HUGE fan of the ANA but respectfully disagree with them on this position. 

  2. Michael Oddi from Tango Partners, April 22, 2016 at 6:52 p.m.

    I too am a fan of of the ANA, but also disagree.  The cable and satellite companies brought this upon themselves by charging ridiculously high fees for monthly cable box rentals.  Advertisers and agencies must come to grips with the fact that the old television model is changing.  Instead of trying to hold on to the past and force consumers to do things their way, agencies and marketers should take a proactive approach to giving consumers what they want by constructively developing an alternative solution that meets the needs of all parties.  The less consumers spend on monthly cable box rental fees, the more they will have to spend on other goods and services. 

  3. Claudio Marcus from FreeWheel, April 25, 2016 at 9:33 a.m.

    The ANA is right in asserting that the FCC needs to include rules that prohibit device-makers from enabling the ability to insert additional ads and require permission from existing rights-holders to enable any changes to the underlying ad content.

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