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Wheeler: Pay TV Providers Threaten Video Competition

WASHINGTON -- FCC chairman Tom Wheeler once again took aim at pay TV providers as the snake in the potentially virtuous circle, coming between between video content providers and consumers.

In a speech at an INCOMPAS conference here Monday (April 11), Wheeler told his audience of competitive carriers that video watching was in a golden age given the abundance of content and of outlets, which he said comprise the third era of video (the first two characterized by a scarcity of outlets).

But that golden age of competition faces threats, he said: "It can be artificially blunted by incumbent pay-TV providers, who can play both ends against the consumer in the middle – by supplying broadband connectivity to online video providers while at the same time competing with these emerging video providers for viewers."

He also invoked two mergers once before the commission, saying his concerns include high-profile issues that came before the FCC in the Comcast-TWC deal that the agency nixed, and the AT&T-DirecTV deal, which it approved with conditions.

He did not say how the Charter-TWC deal currently before the commission fit into that scenario.

The FCC is currently collecting comment on the state of the video marketplace and access by independent programmers to distribution platforms. The inquiry was requested by FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, but Wheeler has signaled he has issuesd, and clearly did so again in the INCOMPAS speech.

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.