FCC Issues 18th Video Competition Report

The FCC quietly released its 18th annual report on the state of video competition this week. As with previous reports, it does not draw conclusions about how competitive the marketplace is or isn't but instead provides a compendium of data, in context, about the state of various video services. Among its observations are that the most significant change in the online video delivery (OVD) marketplace was Dish's Sling TV and that, in the broadcast TV space, digital broadcasting was allowing TV stations to provide improved service.

The data is for 2015, so the snapshot is already yellowing measured in digital years. It has only been seven and a half months since the 17th report, which was released in May, but getting it out the door closes the loop on the latest report before a new administration arrives. Similarly to the 17th report, and for only the second time in its history, the 18th report was issued by the Media Bureau on delegated authority rather than voted on by the commissioners, something that did not sit well with the Republican commissioners who take over the majority Jan. 20.

Back in May, when they did not get a chance to vote, commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly said in a joint statement: "Who’s afraid of a Commission vote," they asked. "Charged by Congress in 1992 with the duty to provide an annual report on the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming, the Commission, for the first time, punts this responsibility to the Media Bureau instead of bringing the proposed report to the Commissioners for a vote, as has occurred 16 times in the past."

While the data is the data, how the FCC presents it does provide some insight. For example, the 18th report points out that people who want to view multiple online video streams are going to need higher broadband speeds, the boosting of which was one of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's policy priorities.

Here are some of the talking points from the executive summary.

  • "MVPDs have extended the availability of some of their programming to online video platforms, similar to those offered by OVDs, referred to as 'TV Everywhere,' services, which allow MVPD subscribers to access programming on Internet-connected devices. In addition, some MVPDs have begun offering online video services that do not require a subscription to a traditional MVPD service."
  •  "Total MVPD subscribers declined in 2013, 2014, and 2015. MVPDs lost about 1.1 million video subscribers in 2015."
  • "Full-power television stations have continued to take advantage of digital broadcasting technology to offer improved service to the public. At the end of 2015, 1,496 full-power stations (87.9 percent) were broadcasting in HD, down slightly from 1,517 at the end of 2014.  In addition to HD content, broadcasters are bringing more programming to consumers, particularly in smaller, rural markets, by expanding the availability of the four major networks and newer networks through digital multicast signals."
  • "The number of households relying on over-the-air broadcast service exclusive of any MVPD service increased since the last report. Nielsen reports that this figure increased from 11.4 million television households in 2014 to 12.4 million television households in 2015, representing an increase from approximately 10 percent to 11 percent of all television households. Figures from NAB indicate that 26.7 million television households, or approximately 23 percent of all television households, rely exclusively on over-the-air television service on at least one television in the home." 
  • "In December 2015, Sandvine reported that streaming video and audio traffic accounted for over 70 percent of North American Internet traffic in the peak evening hours on wireline networks… Households seeking to view multiple streaming programs on multiple devices at the same time require higher Internet speeds, relative to those seeking to stream a single program on a single device. In their marketing, wireline Internet service providers (ISPs) assist consumers by recommending specific Internet speed packages for specific uses, such as video streaming, online gaming, and number of Internet-connected devices."
  • "On June 14, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the 2015 Open Internet Order."
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.