Charter Blogs Back at OTT Critics

Charter took to the blogosphere Monday to push back on the allegations it is OTT-unfriendly, saying it was a case of competitors trying to get unnecessary conditions on the deal to serve their own businesses interests.

As the FCC vets its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, deal opponents have been leveling that charge, and using Charter CEO Tom Rutledge and Liberty Media chairman John Malone's past statements to try and charge that the deal could "harm the continued development of over-the-top video broadband competition."

According to an ex parte filing on the meeting, representatives of Time Warner (no longer the parent of Time Warner Cable) and HBO met with FCC staffers March 2, the second such meeting over the OTT issue, to drive home that point as the FCC approaches its self-imposed 180-day deadline for completing its deal review.

The first meeting was held back in January.

In a blog post Monday, March 7, Charter said: "Our overriding principle is that consumers should be able to watch the content they want – wherever and whenever they want to watch it – including content offered OTT."

To be clear, we are excited about programmers like HBO who are starting to offer over-the-top versions of their content through products like HBO NOW, simply because it makes our unlimited, high-speed broadband more valuable for consumers. It also benefits consumers by providing them more ways to access programming, which in turn places less pressure on service providers like Charter to give in to a programmer’s demand for a sky-high rate increase."

The point Charter has made, including Rutledge, is that OTT is good for them and consumers since the more widely distributed content is, the cheaper it will be--both to Charter and consumers. That is the other side of the argument that Charter would impede OTT distribution to preserve the exclusivity of its content and thus its attractiveness in a world of exploding choices.

And when Rutledge said: "[A]nybody who sells their content over-the-top and also expects to exist within a bundle is deluding themselves," what he was saying was that if a programmer sells a channel OTT, "competition and the market will require those programmers to offer it to Charter in the same way.

"It is simply Economics 101," said Charter. "Asking Charter to continue to pay the same rates despite increased availability of the content is akin to asking us to punish our customers for using our service."

As to Charter's commitment to diverse programming, Charter ticked off the Independent programmers that support the deal, including Bounce TV, Crown Media, Reelz, TV One, RFD-TV, Fuse Media, Ovation, and Inspire.

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.