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Telletopia Tweaks OTT Redefinition

WASHINGTON — Telletopia, which is trying to create an online TV-station streaming service that compensates broadcasters, is taking a new tack with the Federal Communications Commission, whose help it needs to launch the service.

It still wants the FCC to redefine online video providers sending out multiple channels of preprogrammed video as MVPDs, but wants it to forbear from applying regulations to those who do not opt to retransmit broadcast TV or carry cable networks in full.

Telletopia initially asked the FCC to redefine day-and-date online streaming services — those that mimic multichannel video programming distributors — as MVPDs.

Now it wants the agency to tweak the definition so that it does not put a damper on online video providers that are not looking to retransmit TV stations. That’s specifically so that streamers that don’t carry TV stations won’t be subject to retransmission- consent rules and other requirements.


The change is meant to try and assuage online video providers that have balked at the possibility of being subject to the obligations of MVPD status (especially Amazon).

Telletopia wants the FCC to forbear applying retransmission- consent regulations to online video distributors that don’t carry broadcast-TV stations, and to forbear applying the program-access rules to OVDs that don’t carry linear cable channels on a day-and-date basis.

Armed with a new coalition branded “The TV Neutrality Alliance” — which includes BitTorrent, BiggyTV, Cocola Broadcasting, Pluto TV, Ventura Broadcasting and others — Telletopia founders Gary Koerper, the CEO and a former senior vice president at Comcast, and Michael Librizzi, the chief financial officer, say they will be meeting with staffers of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners this week to make their pitch.

They already did some spadework at the agency in March, when they outlined the change to commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“We are proposing that if you don’t select to retransmit local broadcast TV, you are not going to be regulated by retransmission consent,” Koerper said. “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,” he added, 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 stations, he said.

Telletopia is also positioning its tweaked OTT redefinition request as a fallback position for the FCC on pay TV competition, competition, competition.

Koerper said Wheeler has been trying to come at OTT competition from multiple angles, first with the OTT redefinition proposal, then with the agency’s plan to “unlock” the set-top box. “Now, you are seeing this crescendo of … comments against the set-top box provision. It will be interesting to see if people say [they] would rather have the OVD ruling than the set-top box ruling.”

The new filing and the coalition are trying to solve the problem of getting live programming to the Internet without “accidentally” regulating OTT providers, he said.

Wheeler had initially proposed and planned to vote by the end of last year on the proposal 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.

In December, after the FCC gathered information and comment on the redefinition proposal, Wheeler said it “gave us cause to hit pause,” adding, “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 a chance to refresh its approach in hopes of getting the FCC to act.

Koerper said tweaking the redefinition to exempt those not seeking TV-station retransmission is one way not to discourage all that innovation while allowing all that TV station content onto an online outlet.

Telletopia argues that as a nonprofit, it has an exemption from needing a compulsory license to carry a TV station’s local programming online — something forprofit OTT providers do not have.


But Telletopia needs the MVPD definition to get access to the network programming — particularly sports — and syndicated content that would allow it 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.’”

Koerper said the “neutrality” branding on the new alliance was a natural, arguing there is a basic similarity with network neutrality.

“The reality is it is the same problem,” he said. “Net neutrality is about everyone’s fear that big corporate ISPs were going to control what is going over the Internet. And TV neutrality is the same thing, which is that, ironically, the same corporations have the same level of power over the most important content, so it was a perfect analogy between network neutrality and TV neutrality.“

That “net neutrality” branding is even more on point now that a federal court has essentially put its stamp of approval on the FCC’s new Open Internet rules.

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.