Roku Talks Up Multiple App Set-Top Requirement at FCC

Executives with streaming media player Roku met with aides to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler last week to show their support for his apps-based variation on new set-top navigation device rules and argue that MVPDs having to create apps for multiple platforms should be doable.

They got together with counselor Gigi Sohn and legal advisor Jessica Almond just before the beginning of the seven-day quiet period in advance of this week's planned Sept. 29 vote.

The Roku representatives, including the head of content and general counsel, said they thought Wheeler's plan would "allow for more innovation and encourage greater competition."

MVPDs have argued that the FCC "needs to put limits around [an app] mandate in order to ensure that MVPDs [who are not happy with the latest proposal] are not unduly burdened with producing apps for untold numbers of native platforms." But Roku told the FCC it doesn't think that platform requirement should be too hard a lift.

"Roku understands that to ensure that MVPD apps actually provide consumers with the same levels of functionality and performance as MVPDs’ set-top boxes, it is contemplated that the standard license will include technical appendices addressing any features unique to a particular widely deployed platform," the company said. "As Roku representatives explained, establishing platform-specific technical appendices should not be an overly complex matter."

Roku said that "platform" should also be defined narrowly enough so that MVPDs would only have to develop apps for each platform, not every device.

"In other words, a single platform should only be considered to operate on multiple device types when each device using the platform can generally operate the same set of available apps without requiring the apps to be modified or developed differently."

At press time the FCC was still scheduled to vote on the set-top proposal Sept. 29 despite major pushback from many quarters.

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.