Roku to Wheeler: HTML5 Should Not Be De Facto Navigation Standard

Calls it bulky, expensive; says MVPDs should support various platforms

Video streaming device maker Roku has issues with the FCC's set-top box unlocking plan, but it also has issues with the cable industry's box-ditching, apps-based plan.

In meetings with top aides to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler about the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's app-based proposal, Roku said that "while Roku continues to believe that the Commission’s current set-top box rulemaking efforts could be counterproductive," it is concerned that the cable alternative would create HTML5 as the de facto video distribution standard.

"Such an approach would be ill-advised given that consumers have clearly demonstrated their preference of an array of devices with diverse user experiences," they said.

FCC staffers vetting the MVPD proposal have suggested that HTML5 "may be an appropriate platform for app developers to provide access to content."

But Roku has little good to say about it, at least as a potential standard: "HTML5 is a bulky and expensive architecture that would require third-party device manufacturers to include additional processing power and memory to support it, even in their lowest-priced device."

The device maker says that whatever the FCC decides to do about promoting a competitive market for third-party video access devices, it should give these features:

Multiple apps: If the FCC takes an apps-based approach, it should not make HTML5 the preferred or mandated option but require MVPDs to support any widely deployed platform.

No third-party in-app development: The FCC should not allow MVPDs to support third-party app development within MVPD apps, which it says would defeat the purpose of promoting third parties as competitors. "MVPDs should remain free to offer other apps that provide access to third-party apps, but such apps would not satisfy the Commission’s set-top box requirement," they said.

Direct Delivery: MVPDs should be required to support content provider apps "that deliver content directly to users who are paying for such content as part of an MVPD’s programming package," along the lines of the TV Everywhere model but with more seamless authentication, they say.

Metadata: Make sure MVPDs provide "rich" metadata for searching and browsing.

Non-Discrimination: The FCC should adopt a general non-discrimination standard to ensure MVPDs can't adopt practices that make a user’s experience on a third-party navigation device different from that of their own.

Disputes: Create a streamlined process for enforcement and resolving disputes over whether MVPDs are actually supporting the third-party platforms the FCC is trying to promote.