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Telletopia Seeks Tweaked OVD Redefinition

Telletopia, which is trying to create an online TV station streaming service that compensates TV stations, is taking a new tack with the FCC, whose help it needs to launch the service. It still wants the FCC to redefine online video distributors (OVDs) distributing “multiple channels of preprogrammed video” as MVPDs but wants it to forbear from applying regulations to those under that definition who do not opt to retransmit broadcast TV or carry cable nets in full.

Telletopia, which initially asked the FCC to redefine day and date online streamers—those mimicking MVPDs—as MVPDs, is now asking the FCC to tweak the definition so that it does not put a damper on online video providers not looking to retransmit TV stations—specifically so that OTTs who do not carry TV stations won’t be subject to retrans and other requirements, which has caused some online streamers—Amazon in particular—to balk at the prospect of being subject to the obligations of MVPD status.

Telletopia wants the FCC to forbear from applying regs to those who do not opt to carry TV stations (retrans), or to those who do not carry day-and-date cable channels (program access).

Armed with a new coalition—including BitTorrent, BiggyTV, Cocola Broadcasting, Pluto TV, Ventura Broadcasting and others—which has been branded the "TV Neutrality Alliance," Telletopia founders Gary Koerper, CEO, and Michael Librizzi, CFO, said they will be meeting with staffers of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners next week to make their pitch.

“We are proposing that if you don’t select to retransmit local broadcast TV, you are not going to be regulated by retransmission consent. If you don’t avail yourself of the benefits of program access rules for cable nets, you won’t be governed by all the rules that govern cable net access."

“The fundamental issue the industry has been struggling with,” Koerper said, is that “there has been so much innovation in the over-the-top space, why do we need regulation in the over-the-top space to create competition.” But what is missing from that competition is local broadcast, he says.

While Wheeler initially proposed, and planned to vote on the proposal by the end of last year, to redefine day-and-date online video streamers as MVPDs so they could get the competitive protections of program access rules.

But that effort was put on the back burner after some major pushback, including from edge providers and high-profile Democrats.

Wheeler said in December that after the FCC gathered information and comment on the redefinition proposal it "gave us cause to hit pause" adding that "there are so many innovative things going on right now in the video space and we want to let it continue to innovate."

That pause gave Telletopia cause to adjust its approach.

Telletopia argues that as a nonprofit, it has an exemption from needing a compulsory license to carry TV station’s local programming online—something for profit OTT’s do not have—but that it needs to MVPD definition to get access to the network—particularly sports—and syndicated programming that would allow them to carry a TV channel 24/7.

“The reality is that unless the FCC creates a regime where we can negotiate those terms, there is no way to compete against existing MVPDs. All the networks will say, ‘we’ll give you what we’ve got, but I can’t give you all the big name sports.’”

“Only with a level regulatory playing field – specifically the ability to acquire MVPD status –will OVDs be able to launch competitive service offerings to cable, satellite, and telco-based subscription video packages that include broadcast station programming,” the alliance is telling the FCC.

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.