Network Affiliates Strongly Support OVDs as MVPDs

The TV station affiliate associations have told the FCC that it should go ahead and reclassify linear online video distributors (OVDs) providers as MVPDs so long as it holds them to retransmission consent and good faith bargaining rules—subject to certain qualifications—and applies exclusivity rules to over the top as well.

The stations want to make sure their signals are safe from piracy online, and can be confined to online subs in their broadcast markets.

How the FCC structures the new definition could determine broadcast TV's competitiveness and access to viewers in an online MVPD world.

The broadcaster asks came in reply comments filed at the FCC Thursday (April 2) by the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate associations.

The TV station associations said that OVDs who qualify should not be able to opt out of the MVPD definition.

NAB argues that there is already precedent for defining distributors without control of a transmission path as MVPDs, pointing to open video systems (OVS) and television receive-only satellite program distributors.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has argued that comparison is apples to oranges, but the stations rejected it as meaningless.

They say their initial comments went essentially rebutted and the FCC should adopt the linear programming interpretation.

The FCC has proposed the redefinition, but asked for input on which obligations it should impose on the new MVPDs.

NAB says that should include negotiating for TV station carriage in good faith, as traditional MVPDs must do, which is its key ask out of the new rule, but they say there should be some modifications for OVDs given their unique characteristics.

They include that OVDs who wish to avail themselves of the rules should have to register that fact with the FCC and provide advance notice to TV stations.

Also high on the stations' list was preserving market exclusivity. "Put simply, without program exclusivity protection there can be no local television broadcast service," they maintained.

In addition, the affiliates said:

1) "Neither OVDs nor broadcasters should be allowed to 'cherry-pick' among similarly-situated stations or OVDs with which they will negotiate, to the exclusion of others."

2) "An OVD should be authorized to do business in those states in which it intends to retransmit broadcast station signals and duly register a service agent."

3) "OVDs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to authenticate subscribers so that only authorized customers are able to receive the signal."

4) "OVDs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to geo-fence broadcast signals so that only those within the area to which the broadcaster consents are able to receive the signal."

5) "OVDs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to retransmit signals securely in order to prevent unauthorized copying or distribution."

6) "OVDs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to retransmit the signal in its entirety and to assure that the quality of the signal is not materially degraded."

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.