FCC Quizzes Ivi CEO On Comcast/NBCU Online Access Issue

Weaver asked about "contractual roadblocks" in cable carriage deals

Complete Comcast/NBCU Coverage

The FCC sought out ivi TV CEO Todd Weaver to
talk about the Comcast/NBCU merger's online content access implications,
according to a spokesman for the company.

"We were approached," said
Hal Bringman of a meeting with FCC staffers about what ivi described
as Comcast's "contractual roadblocks" in cable carriage deals that
prevent programmers from also streaming that content through ivi's online
video site.

According to a filing with the FCC about the
conversation, Weaver talked with staffers from the FCC's Media Bureau, General
Counsel's office and Office of Strategic Planning. Weaver argued that those
"roadblocks" have prevented it from building its business and
"hampered the consumer's ability to obtain lower cost television programming."

Some Comcast deal critics have argued that the FCC
needs to consider applying conditions to the deal that guarantee nondiscriminatory access
to online programming.

Weaver supplied a list of the cable channels he
said had some kind of online exclusivity provisions in their Comcast
contracts or were concerned about steps Comcast could take to disadvantage
their channels if they struck online deals outside of the contract,
or had trouble striking deals with Comcast. They included channels that already
have a carriage bone to pick with the company over traditional carriage--Tennis
Channel and Wealth TV--as well as the Documentary Channel, Univision, and
Northwest Cable News.

Comcast points out that it has a long-term
contract with Tennis Channel that mirrors those of other operators, and that most
major operators don't carry Wealth TV at all, and that an FCC administrative
law judge has already found their programming carriage complaint to be without
merit (the full commission has yet to rule, however).

Ivi TV is currently battling the major
networks, their associated studios, and at least one broadcaster/cable operator
(Cox) for copyright infringement
. Ivi
argues that it has the right to retransmit TV station content without
negotiating an individual retransmission consent agreement, asserting a right
under copyright law as an online multichannel video operator, but arguing it
does not fit the FCC's definition of a cable operator subject to retransmission
consent/must carry rules.