What Does the FCC Know that Apple, Netflix, and Roku Don’t?


TV today is trending for consumers. We’re experiencing an incredible programming renaissance where both the quality and quantity of shows is better than ever before and only improving. We’re also living through a tectonic technology shift that rivals the invention of broadcasting, leveraging rapidly expanding app marketplaces, ubiquitous connectivity and ever shrinking portable screens to deliver limitless television where, when and how we want it.

We see these innovations almost daily, which is why it’s so strange that government feels compelled to insert itself in the mix in order to do Big Tech’s bidding. By forcing new government mandates on network providers and content creators, the FCC may intend to reward Google handsomely, but in the process it will ignore contractual freedoms, weaken content diversity and security, undermine important consumer protections like privacy, and stall the creative and technical innovation that is driving positive changes in today’s TV marketplace.

“AllVid would force programmers and TV providers to dismantle their shows and services for companies to repackage, reuse, and exploit as they see fit.”

Despite these significant shortcomings, it looks like the FCC is attempting to move forward with a technology mandate that would replace app innovation with government regulation – often referred to as “AllVid,” which the FCC wisely decided not to pursue in 2010. AllVid would force programmers and TV providers to dismantle their shows and services for companies to repackage, reuse, and exploit as they see fit and without paying for the content. And they want to do it by forcing additional hardware into the home of viewers who want fewer, not more devices. This all comes as quite a surprise as today, apps are re-inventing how we access programming on what seems like a daily basis. They’re easy to use, they’re free to download, they don’t require additional hardware, and they work almost anywhere. How could undermining this bourgeoning technology marketplace possibly improve the TV-technology relationship?

Because of this misguided plan, a diverse group of programmers, content creators, civic groups and television providers have launched the “Future of TV Coalition.” They did this both to celebrate new technology innovation as well as promote the thriving marketplace that is revolutionizing the video viewing experience. The Coalition’s 48 founding members are united in the belief that innovation and competition should drive the creative marketplace, not government mandates.

A tech mandate like AllVid is an unnecessary and backwards looking plan that injects the FCC into the middle of a thriving marketplace that consumers have embraced. Today, there are already 460 million devices that support TV apps. Roku, America’s most popular streaming device, offers 151 app-based networks. Nearly half of all TVs sold in America are Smart TVs that stream programming apps. Apps, devices, smartphones and tablets that deliver streaming media are a technology solution that is not only popular, but already widely deployed. Why would these technology companies want to stop progress?

Alfred Liggins, CEO of TV One and co-chair of the Future of TV Coalition explains: 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.”

In other words, these technology companies see all this great programming being distributed via free-to-download apps and they want in. They want to sell you an access device that you don’t need in order to give you content you already receive. In order to do so, they need the FCC to force content creators and distributors via a mandate to give up their rights to distribute content as they wish.

As the head of a TV network, Mr. Liggins knows what millions of TV consumers experience every day: incredible quality and diversity not just in programming, but in the ways in which to watch TV. All this competition and innovation didn’t happen because of an FCC mandate forcing creators to hand over their assets. It happened thanks to the hard work of both technology builders and content creators dedicated to making TV a great experience. That’s the way all innovation should happen. Let’s keep it that way.

For more information visit www.FutureofTV.com and follow the Future of TV Coalition @TV_Coalition.

This blog also appeared in CTAM Smartbrief. To sign up, click here.