FCC Votes Video Competition Report

Chairwoman makes point that not all share in proliferation of platforms
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As reported by B&C/Multi, the FCC's just-approved video competition report does not draw any conclusions about the state of competition on the need, or lack of it, for regulation, but did show continued strength among traditional players, though also increased competition for eyeballs from new platforms and distribution models.

"The trends...show continued deployment of digital technology, sustained consumer demand for access to video programming anywhere and anytime, an increased number of households with access to four MVPDs as telephone companies extend their video systems and an increased number of online video providers who are entering the market as well as developing original content," the FCC said in issuing the report.

Among the data points the FCC emphasized included that 1) the number of MVPD subs had increased from 100.8 million to 101.0 million households between the end of 2010 and June 2012; 2) cable's share over the same time frame fell from 59.3 percent of MVPD video subs to 55.7; 3) DBS subs grew from 33.1 percent to 33.6 percent; and 4) the number of households relying exclusively on over-the-air broadcasting has remained steady at approximately 11.1 million households.

The FCC found that while the business is still evolving, "OVDs continue to expand the amount of video content available to consumers through original programming and new licensing agreements with traditional content creators." It also said the viewing of OVDs over TV sets is "increasingly prevalent," citing Kagan figures that by the end of 2012, "the number of Internet-connected television households (video accessed via an Internet-enabled game console, OVD set-top box, TV, or Blu-ray player) would have grown to 41.6 million, or 35.4 percent of all television households."

Acting chairwoman Clyburn pointed to the proliferation of platforms, but also pointed out that not everyone was sharing in that bounty, a point that was made later in the meeting when the FCC teed up its item to get higher-width broadband to schools and libraries that can't afford it.

Commmissioner Jessica Rosenworcel used the just-announced Emmy nominations as a teaching moment about the changing state of video the report reflects.

"The nominees spanned from programming on traditional commercial broadcast networks to public television to cable channels to new platforms like Netflix," she says. "What used to be a field limited to linear programming has now expanded. What was once an award featuring content only viewable in primetime now includes programming viewable at any time."

The Emmys included the first nods for an online-only program, Netflix's House of Cards, a show appropriately about the workings of Washington politics and policy.

Responding to the report, Free Press Policy Director was not shy about drawing conclusions about competitiveness. "The cable market isn't competitive," he said. "All you have to do is look at your cable bill to see that prices are going up, not down. And no matter what the FCC might say about increased choices online, it's a sure sign of a broken market when the best that giants like Google and Apple can promise is a better cable box. It's not an actual alternative if customers are still tied to the cable model. Until we break apart the forced channel bundles and get rid of unnecessary online data caps, we'll never see more than baby-step innovations and skyrocketing prices."

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