NCTA to FCC: Video is Competitive, But OVDs Should Be Monitored

Cable operators have a simple answer to the FCC's burning question of whether the video marketplace is competitive—yes—and a suggestion for how the FCC should proceed armed with that conclusion, including by making sure new online video competitors don't do anything to hurt that flourishing competition.

That came in comments by NCTA-The Internet & Television Association on the FCC's latest call for input on its annual video competition report.

The FCC under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai is likely to break with recent tradition and actually produce a report that comes to a conclusion about that competitiveness, rather than simply provide a snapshot of the marketplace as previous reports under Democratic chairs have done.

NCTA says the whole point of the report is to come to a conclusion about whether it is time to "dismantle a regulatory framework premised on the lack of competition." The previous reports under Democrats did not conclude one way or another.

NCTA also knows what the report should conclude: "Today's marketplace is characterized by vigorous competition" it says, among content providers of all stripes.

Given that Congress' concerns prompting the FCC reports—"a lack of MVPD competitors to cable and vertical integration of cable operators and most of the most popular cable program networks"—do not exist any longer, it says, "regulations premised on a lack of competition in the video market have no place in a market that is vigorously competitive."

Among other things, NCTA points to the steady decline in the share and number of MVPD subs, and the FCC's conclusion—a divided conclusion under Democratic chairman Tom Wheeler back in 2015—that MVPD's were presumed in all local markets to be subject to effective competition subject to rebuttal.

But NCTA wasn't telling the FCC to butt out entirely.

"New gatekeepers in the online marketplace should be monitored to ensure that the vigorous video competition that currently exists among MVPDs, between MVPDs and online video distributors, and among program networks and suppliers continues to flourish," it told the commission.

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.