Content Companies Commend Box-Ditching Effort

Major content companies 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Viacom, CBS and Scripps offered their support for the basics of cable operators' "ditch the box" set-top proposal in meetings with top aides to Republican commissioner Ajit Pai last week but said it needed tweaking to insure content protections.

They told the staffers that of the "various alternatives" the FCC is considering for boosting competition in the video navigation space, the apps-based MVPD plan "offers a constructive foundation for providing consumers with an alternative to leasing set-top boxes, subject to certain additional protections for programmers and the clarification of particular details."

Related: CVCC Prods Cable's Box Ditch Pitch

They did not spell out exactly what those were, but content providers want assurances that whatever route the FCC takes, it does not run roughshod over contractual obligations or copyright protections, points it raised with Pai's folks, according to an ex parte letter on the meeting.

"[A]ny final rules must ensure parity for programmer apps and provide program networks with enforceable contractual rights against competitive device manufacturers and MVPDs," they said.

The FCC has been holding stakeholder meetings on the ditch the box proposal. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled he is open to constructive dialog on a way forward. That will likely be necessary given that Republicans oppose his "unlock the box" proposal and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel, whose vote he would need on a final order, has said the FCC needs to find a new path.

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.