AT&T: OTT Video Plan Obviates Need for Set-Top Rules

AT&T said its planned rollout of a set of DirecTV-branded over-the-top services that will rely on a variety of connected retail devices shows how off-base the FCC’s effort to unlock the set-top box is.

“This confirms that the FCC’s proposed new rules on set-top boxes are wholly unnecessary, backward looking and would impose significant costs with no corresponding benefits,” the company said in a statement. “Our new services will demonstrate that we and the market generally are moving beyond set-top boxes, and providing consumers more choices than ever to watch what they want, when they want and on the device of their choosing anywhere they happen to be."

“Rather than imposing a government technology mandate that will never keep pace with the vibrantly competitive video marketplace, the Commission should allow competition to work.”

AT&T, which has long objected to the FCC’s set-top rules proposal, said its new OTT services, set for a Q4 2016 launch, will support an array of smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, streaming players, and Web browsers. However, it has not announced which connected-TV platforms it will support out of the chute, and whether that will include platforms such as the Apple TV, Roku players, Amazon’s Fire TV and products that run on Google’s new Android TV operating system.

A divided FCC voted last month to approve the notice of proposed rulemaking for new set-top box rules that aim to “unlock” MVPD-supplied boxes and help to establish a vibrant market for retail video devices that the CableCARD regime failed to achieve. The FCC released the text of the NPRM on Feb. 18.

—Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner contributed to this story

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.