FCC Proposing Defining 'Linear' OVDs as MVPDs

According to multiple sources, the FCC is working on an item that would define an online video provider (OVD) that delivers a linear stream of programming as an MVPD, similar to a cable or satellite operator. That means OVDs would have access to content through the FCC's program access rules, but also have to negotiate retransmission consent with broadcasters.

The idea is that over-the top providers would have FCC-enforced access to vertically integrated programming.

The item, which could be released as early as this week, reportedly asks what other MVPD rights and responsibilities beyond access and retrans carriage should extend to over-the-top providers.

An FCC spokesperson had no comment. But an FCC official speaking on background confirmed that the item proposes the adoption of a technology neutral definition of an MVPD.

That would mean reversing a tentative, bureau-level conclusion in the Sky Angel program access complaint that having a facilities-based transmission path was necessary to be an MVPD. The FCC tentatively concluded that an MVPD has to have control of both the content and the transmission path—copper, fiber, satellite signals to be delivering a channel—and that an OVD distributor lacks that path since it does not control a facilities-based channel to deliver it.

The NPRM tentatively concludes that the entity would not need to own the transmission path to be an MVPD as long as it provides a continuous linear stream of prescheduled programming—not like a Netflix or other on-demand video programmer without a linear lineup.

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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.