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Industry PlaysCrystal Ball Persuasion

Having recently made our own prognostications for 2013, B&C decided to collect some from analysts, telecom lawyers and others looking into their own crystal balls at the communication industry’s future. Broadcasters will like a number of these predictions, including projections of a win in the Aereo court case and no major government action on retrans reforms.

Aereo, Shmaereo. In a prediction that would top a lot of broadcasters’ New Year’s wish lists, Wells Fargo Securities analysts are suggesting that Aereo won’t prevail in its effort to stream TV station signals without compensating broadcasters. “Based on the FilmON case in California and the fact that the Federal Court of Appeals does not seem very sympathetic to Aereo thus far, we think broadcasters win here. If they don’t, at least they will eventually get compensated,” the Wells Fargo analysts say. A judge recently enjoined FilmON from streaming TV stations, saying it an was illegal retransmission of copyrighted content. In another bit of prognostication that would please broadcasters, Wells Fargo also predicts that if the definition of multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) is broadened to include over-the-top distribution, retransmission consent would apply, which would mean a new revenue stream benefiting all broadcasters. The FCC is currently considering whether to redefine MVPD, given the move to IP delivery of content. The analysts also don’t see any changes to the retrans rules currently applied to broadcast carriage, which should benefit all broadcast stocks as well.

That squares with the FCC’s general tendency to stay out of retrans negotiations except for shaking a big stick and advising against extended blackouts that disenfranchise consumers.

White Spaces. “Expect the FCC to finally authorize the use of ‘TV White Spaces’ throughout the U.S. sometime in 2013,” predicts Greg Kunkle, partner in the communications firm of Keller and Heckman. “These license-exempt devices could eventually satisfy requirements for VHF fixed uses, particularly in more remote areas.”

The FCC is on track to fulfill that prediction, having authorized databases to check for open frequencies, with the plan to start allowing them to be used by unlicensed devices sometime later this year.

Smart Crooks: Chiranjeev Bordoloi, CEO of TopPatch, a computer security company, says criminals will be able to hack into homes via smart TVs. “Smart TVs are extremely vulnerable to attacks, especially as app stores for TVs become more prevalent,” Bordoloi argues. “Applications are becoming available for users to download, and an attacker needs to exploit vulnerabilities in just one of these apps to enter people’s homes. In 2013, the attacks may be geared more toward stealing content, like movies and games, but as smart TVs become more sophisticated and integrated into home networks, you can be assured cyber criminals will find new ways to exploit this new avenue inside the home.”

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