Powell Pitches Rosenworcel on Device Competition

MVPDs and studios brought out the big guns last week, including National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell, to make their pitch for why the current video navigation marketplace does not need the goosing of an FCC set-top disaggregation regime.

That is according to an ex parte filing at the FCC on a June 2 meeting with Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted along with the other two Democrats to tentatively propose requiring MVPDs to make their programming and data available to third-party device makers and app developers.

Powell was joined by a phalanx of top D.C. execs from the Motion Picture Association of America, CBS, AT&T, Fox, NBCU and Viacom.

According to the filing, they demoed apps-delivered programming already available via Roku, Nvidia, Samsung and Apple TV.

They also demonstrated pirated content on retail devices, which is one of their issues with making all their content available to third parties, and talked about the importance of protecting copyrights.

One of the hot-button issues has been whether the proposal will help or hurt diverse programmers. That community is divided, but the execs said that diverse programmers can participate in all the platforms they were demonstrating.

The FCC has closed the official comment window on the proposal, but is still taking meetings—and accepting comments.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said he is open to tweaking the item to make it clearer that copyrighted content is protected and the MVPD's ad-supported model is not in danger. But Powell told B&C in an interview several weeks ago that he was not sanguine about that prospect.

"We have heard that in almost every proceeding and it usually comes out awfully close to the way he says it is going to come out."

But Powell did hold out some hope: "If he sincerely is going to work on an order that doesn’t just take these things into account but actually addresses and removes them as a concern, I think everybody will be happy."

But just in case, Wheeler will need Rosenworcel's vote on a final item if it remains "awfully close" to the original, and Powell and company were working to convince her it should not remain so. 

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.