Advanced Television

Coalition to protect US ‘TV ecosystem’

January 28, 2016

A diverse group of programmers, content creators, civic groups and television providers have launched the ‘Future of TV Coalition’ to celebrate and promote the thriving innovation that is revolutionising the video viewing experience – giving American audiences more and better choices than ever before of what, where, when and how to watch TV programming.

The Coalition’s 47 founding members – led by Co-Chairs Alfred Liggins, CEO of TV One, and Nomi Bergman, President of Bright House Networks – are united in the belief that innovation and competition should drive the creative marketplace, not government mandates that have the potential to undermine and impede the best TV market in the world.

With technology transforming the viewing experience, audiences are enjoying TV at home, on the go and using just about any device they want, from smartphones and tablets to laptops, game consoles, dedicated streaming devices, and smart TVs. Internet connectivity has unleashed an app-based world in which every connected device is also a TV.

In some places, viewers can access their entire pay-TV package over digital apps without even using a set-top box, a trend that will only accelerate, suggests the Coalition. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently declared “the future of TV is apps”, and Internet giants ranging from Amazon to Netflix have launched apps giving consumers access to massive movie and TV libraries and high-quality original shows. Likewise, networks such as CBS, HBO and Showtime and sports leagues such as Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association now offer stand-alone app-based streaming services that do not require a traditional pay-TV subscription at all.

A few large technology companies, however, want the FCC to replace this innovation with government regulation – often referred to as ‘AllVid’. The Coalition claims that AllVid would force programmers and TV providers to dismantle their shows and services for these companies to repackage, reuse, and exploit without negotiating for the rights like everybody else in the market does today. AllVid would not give viewers access to any new programming or content that isn’t already available in their homes and would not replace or lower their existing television bills. Moreover, it would increase the equipment in consumer homes by requiring a new AllVid adapter in the home to deliver programming to a set-top box or video device purchased at retail, further escalating consumer costs.

Many parties, including 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have warned this would unravel the modern TV ecosystem, doing particular damage to small, independent, and diverse programmers and the communities they serve. AllVid would also undermine vital privacy and other consumer protections that apply to pay-TV providers but not the tech firms advocating adoption of AllVid. And it would erode protections against video piracy, rendering programming less secure.

Because of these and other technological, policy, and legal problems with the proposal, the FCC wisely declined to pursue AllVid in 2010. And since then, whatever rationale there was for this sweeping new mandate has only weakened as the market has rocketed forwarded with innovative new services, devices, and competitive choices. The AllVid idea makes far less sense and would do far more harm today after five years of such successful, rapid, pro-consumer changes that have delivered such substantial benefits to viewers.

“We are joining together as people who make, deliver, and love great TV to make the case for smart policies that continue our march forward into the future – instead of dragging TV back into the past,” declared Wiggins. “The ‘AllVid’ proposal is a brazen money grab by Big Tech companies that would do severe damage to the programming ecosystem, and in particular, niche and minority-focused networks. Everyone who cares about quality, diverse television should let the FCC know that AllVid is a harmful non-starter.”

Bergman emphasised that AllVid would needlessly undermine a healthy and vital creative marketplace: “With all the change and disruption already taking place in TV, this may be the most competitive and exciting marketplace in America. Unprecedented innovation has given viewers more choices for services, devices, and programming than ever before. American consumers have never had more freedom to find and watch the shows they love in different ways – from a la carte, to smaller packages, to traditional or new Internet providers and above all the burgeoning marketplace for streaming devices and video apps. But AllVid would slam the brakes on this progress and harm consumers. It’s the ultimate example of the government trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”

Future of TV’s founding members are: American Cable Association (ACA), Armstrong Cable Services, ARRIS Group Inc., AT&T/DIRECTV, Atlantic Broadband, Blue Ridge Communications, Bright House Networks, Buckeye CableSystem, Cable One, Cablevision Systems Corporation, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Cincinnati Bell, Cisco Systems Inc., Comcast Corporation, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Crossings TV, DISH Network, Eagle Communications, Inc., EchoStar Technologies, Frontier Communications, General Communications Inc., Hargray Cable, ITTA – The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Companies, MCTV, Mediacom Communications, MetroCast Communications, Midcontinent Communications, Minority Business RoundTable (MBRT), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), National Congress of Black Women (NCBW), National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, NBCUniversal, Revolt, Service Electric Cablevision, Sjoberg’s Inc., Suddenlink Communications, TDS, Time Warner Cable, TV One, United States Telecom Association, Vyve Broadband, and WOW!

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