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Editorial: Voice of OTT Experience

The FCC powers that be rarely seem to believe cable operators when they talk about there being a vibrant competitive market in online video, one that is not crying out for FCC intervention to make sure it is competitive.

The FCC is proposing changing the definition of multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) to read out the need for facilities-based delivery in the definition, something cable operators oppose.

But perhaps the FCC will be more receptive to the argument when it’s made by Amazon and Microsoft and the other members of the Digital Media Association, which include Apple, YouTube and Pandora.

In comments and follow-up meetings at the FCC, the association and some individual members—Amazon and Microsoft notably—told various commissioners and staffers that “the nation’s leading online video distributors currently make available millions of movies and television shows to be streamed or downloaded instantly by consumers; and much of that programming is of exceptional quality.”

In their own separate meeting, Amazon and Microsoft execs tag-teamed to sound like cable operators arguing that the online video space is plenty competitive.

“Competition and innovation in all sectors of the video content and distribution industry, including ‘over-the-top’ services, today is vibrant and growing, with many companies offering content through multiple devices and delivery technologies and investing in high-quality programming, all to the benefit of consumers,” the execs told the FCC according to a commission document on the meeting.

The Motion Picture Association of America was promoting some figures last week that the FCC should also note. The studio group said that by the end of last year, Americans could access 112 legitimate online services for watching content, in the process accessing 66.6 billion television episodes and 7.1 billion movies in 2014 alone.

In a filing to the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator last week, the MPAA, which includes Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros., told the government that, “The legitimate, licensed marketplace for video programming is burgeoning, with more viewers accessing more content through more dissemination channels than ever before. [We] have embraced the Internet to offer their content through a wide and growing array of platforms and distributors.”

And that means collectively, cable operator program distributors, online program distributors and the producers of content all believe the online marketplace is going gangbusters. That sure sounds like a clear message that the marketplace is not in need of regulatory intervention, delivered by those who would have a plenty good idea if it did require the government to step in.

Whatever the FCC decides to do about a new definition, it should remember the above when talking in general about the need to regulate, or specifically about imposing deal conditions, on traditional MVPDs with the argument that without it, the OTT business will be nipped in the bud.

Indeed, it already appears to be flowering and in fear of the dull pruning shears of preemptive legacy regulations.