FCC Seeks Input on Competition Among Video Providers

The FCC has issued its call for comment on the next (19th) video competition report and it is particularly interested in answering the question of whether, or how much, broadcasting, cable and over-the-top are substitutes for each other, which would help it determine how competitive the video marketplace is.

Historically the competition report has not actually drawn a conclusion about the competitiveness of the market, instead summarizing the business models and strategies in various sectors and providing financial and operating data. But that could change.

"We are especially interested in intergroup competition between the video services offered by MVPDs, OVDs, and broadcast television stations," the FCC's Media Bureau said in seeking comment on the new report.

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Key to that assessment is whether they are substitutes or supplements. The more substitutable (competitive) they are, arguably the less need there is for regulation to promote competition.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been critical of past reports for not acknowledging what he sees as the growing intergroup competitiveness, a video marketplace that Pai and fellow commissioner Michael O'Rielly have called "objectively more vibrant and competitive than at any time in history."

Comments are due Oct. 10. Reply comments are due Nov. 9.

The FCC quietly released its 18th annual report on the state of video competition Jan. 17 just before Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler and the Obama Administration exited. Among its observations are that the most significant change in the online video delivery (OVD) marketplace was Dish's Sling TV and AT&T's DirecTV Now and that, in the broadcast TV space, digital broadcasting was allowing TV stations to provide improved service.

Pai has also been critical of the past two reports for being released on the Media Bureau's delegated authority rather than voted by the commissioners. Look for that to change this time around.

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.