CVCC Pitches FCC on Must-Haves in MVPD Set-Top Approach

It is looking like the odds are getting better that the FCC will pivot its "unlock the box" set-top box revamp proposal toward the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's app-based "ditch the box" approach.

Representatives of the Consumer Video Choice Coalition (CVCC), whose members include TiVo and INCOMPAS (Google is among its members), met with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's top aides and FCC chief technologist Scott Jordan about the set-top proposal.

And while they still pushed for Wheeler's "unlock the box" approach of disaggregating MVPDs' programming and data streams, they also outlined their asks should the FCC proceed with a "solution that relies on an MVPD-supplied app for delivering content in a manner specific to the operator’s agreements."

FCC staff conversations in recent weeks had suggested Wheeler could be moving toward allowing programming from third parties to remain under the control of a MVPD app. That’s according to ex parte conversations from Hollywood studios concerned with the FCC proposal's impact on copyright and content, as are MVPDs.

Related: Wheeler: Set-Top Proposal Should Include Some Cable Suggestions

Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has made it clear that the agency will need to shift gears to get her vote, so a move toward a more programmer-friendly approach could be a way to secure it.

Should the FCC go that direction—Sept. 8 is the date on which the chairman will circulate his tentative agenda for the Sept. 29 public meeting, which could include a set-top order—CVCC said the FCC should insure an "innovation sandbox" where device makers can develop comparable, competitive apps and where MVPDs make apps available on a "reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and royalty-free basis."

Related: Copyright Office Has Big Issues With FCC Set-Top Plan

CVCC said the FCC needs to insure that app developers can "(1) use an open and independent UI, (2) enable a robust integrated search feature, and (3) preserve essential features consumers enjoy today, such as home recording."

CVCC said that while it believes the FCC should not go the MVPD app route, "requiring absolute parity in features and available content vis-à-vis competitive devices that are available to consumers today will help ensure that the FCC’s solution enables meaningful competition in the market. In particular, any solution adopted by the FCC should ensure that consumers can access all the content they have paid for on the device of their choosing."

CVCC also wants the FCC to require cable ops to continue to supply CableCARDs to competitive devices for at least the next seven years.

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.