Cable Networks to FCC: AllVid Is AllBad

Forcing pay-TV operators to adopt common technical standards to strip out video for delivery over IP would stifle the development of new video programming services — like 3D networks — as well as potentially lead to “inappropriate” content or ads placed against TV content and an increased risk of piracy.

So said reps from seven media giants, in Aug. 12 joint comments filed with the FCC.

This past Monday, two execs from Disney — John Eberhard, ESPN’s VP of technology and distribution, and Susan Fox, Disney’s VP of government relations — met with FCC commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker and agency staffers to make their case against AllVid, according to ex parte filings.

“[W]e stressed that the video marketplace is evolving so quickly that any government-set standard will freeze innovation, including innovation in new programming services,” Disney said in the filings.

Quick recap: The FCC earlier this year proposed a new “AllVid” regulation, to apply to all pay-TV providers, that would provide a common way for devices to access TV programming and program information. The regulation, which would supersede CableCard rules, was proposed to go into effect no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

The filing from August — submitted by Disney, CBS, Discovery Communications, NBC Universal, News Corp., Time Warner Inc. and Viacom — went into more detail explaining programmers’ opposition to the idea.

The companies said standardizing the video output from multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) — as AllVid proposes — would “essentially freeze the status quo, thereby reducing the incentive to innovate and stifling the development of new features and services” such as 3D networks and interactive TV.

Other concerns from the media giants: AllVid will “undermine existing and continuing investments in content presentation by programmers,” by altering or removing the consistent look, feel, and branding of program networks — and could also allow “inappropriate content or advertising to be overlaid onto MVPD content, particularly children’s or family programming.” (Think about the children!)

AllVid, the programmers warned, might also result in illegitimate content sources being promoted by searches over legitimate ones, rank content sources based on paid keywords “by entities unrelated to programmers” or abrogate contractual provisions governing channel placement.

Finally, while the AllVid proposal suggested that the DTLA’s DTCP-IP specification be used for content protection, the media firms said that “any one security tool or technology is unlikely to support a full range of consumer uses and distribution models for video content, or to provide comprehensive protection. Reliance on a single technology also creates unacceptable security risks as it significantly increases the likelihood that it will be subject to repeated compromises.”

Remember, the FCC is proposing to make all MVPDs provide AllVid-compatible devices to all subscribers starting in 2013, all on the theory that this new regime would result in a bounty of consumer electronics thereby increasing pay-TV subscribers’ choice. Maybe.

Here’s some past coverage from Multichannel News of the FCC’s AllVid proposal, originally released in March, and related topics:

  • NCTA: AllVid Should Not Mean Unbundling
  • FCC’s AllVid: Obsolete on Day One
  • Verizon: Netflix Approach Shows Why New Set-Top Rules Aren’t Needed
  • FCC AllVid Rule Would ‘Ban The Set-Top As We Know It’: Analyst
  • AT&T U-verse TV Would Not Meet FCC’s AllVid Gateway Requirement
  • CableCard Set-Tops Top 22.75 Million: NCTA
  • TiVo Wants Cable to Throw More Money at CableCards