Industry Board Calls for Content-Based ‘TV Ratings’ for Streaming Services

Family watching TV
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An industry-created content ratings oversight board whose members include major studios and networks is recommending that streaming services adopt TV's age-based ratings system, given the growing number of families that can access those platforms, many of which do not use the TV parental guidelines content ratings.

The TV Parental Guidelines Board, chaired by Motion Picture Association chairman Charles Rivkin, has issued new “best practice” guidelines for streaming services focused on how they can and should adopt age-based ratings and applicable descriptors.

Also Read: PTC Says Streamers May Need Content Rules

The board recommends that U.S. streaming services adopt the age-based TV ratings for “online video assets that were shown on television, with ratings and for all movies and episodes of programs “originally produced for the streaming environment (other than with respect to news, sports, advertisements or promotional materials or movies rated by the Motion Picture Association (MPA).”

The board said the ratings should be displayed on-screen at the time a consumer accesses the online video and should, at a minimum, “strive to replicate” TV’s age-based ratings with descriptors. It also said that unless the content has been edited, any off-TV online video should apply the same rating as its TV airing.

The idea is to “encourage a consistent ratings experience for parents regardless of whether they and their families are watching content via traditional TV networks or through streaming service.”

The board is meant to ensure continuity of program ratings and content guidelines and address complaints. Its 18 industry members — Hulu is one of them — are picked by the National Association of Broadcasters, NCTA–The Internet and Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association. Its five public-interest members are picked by the chairman.

The Parents Television and Media Council, which has been calling for ratings for streamed content, welcomed the news, but called it a first step rather than a solution. “These guidelines are a small step forward to resolve widespread inconsistencies in how programs are rated on streaming platforms," said PTC president Tim Winter, who said the next steps are ensuring that the ratings are “are accurately and consistently applied,” which he said the TV ratings have not been, “and that the blocking/parental controls are effective and consistent.”

The other industry members of the board are A+E Networks, AMC Networks, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Call for Action, CBS, Discovery, Entertainment Industries Council, Hulu, Lifetime Networks, the National PTA, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Turner, Univision Communications and Viacom Media Networks.

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.