Al Jazeera, YipTV show differing sides of FCC's probe into changing MVPD rules

As the FCC considers major changes to how it defines multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), two companies recently issued pleas with the commission that show the complex and fractured nature of pay-TV today alongside the challenges of moving TV onto the Internet.

First up is Al Jazeera America (AJAM), which urged the FCC to issue rules on the topic that would ensure "that independent content providers such as AJAM can make their content available online and not be shackled by provisions, including both clauses directly limiting OTT distribution of AJAM's linear content and MFNs [most favored nation status], that frustrate their ability to reach a wider audience."

"AJAM today is available in 54 million homes but the challenges to maintain and expand that reach are profound," the broadcaster noted in its FCC filing.

However, one online video company urged the commission to take a careful approach in its efforts to create more options for online video. YipTV, which launched in May to offer overseas TV broadcasts to Americans, argued the FCC should not impose MVPD obligations on online video distributors (OVDs).

"The obligations of MVPD status are substantial," YipTV wrote in its filing. "The FCC should provide a waiver or exemption from those MVPD obligations for emerging OVDs that do not stream US broadcast channels or cable-affiliated programming. That narrow class of OVDs are already subject to the requirements applicable to Internet-based distributors of video programming, and would obtain zero benefit from being classified as an MVPD -- and therefore should not be saddled with the associated burdens."

For its part, the NCTA has said the FCC should not give online video companies MVPD status for a variety of reason. NCTA represents the cable industry.

It's unclear how the FCC will eventually rule on the topic, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler this week said he plans to circulate an order that would remove 50-year-old "exclusivity" laws that restrict operators from importing signals from distant stations during impasses with local broadcasters over retransmission fees. Such a move would give cable operators and others more options when negotiating with local TV broadcasters.

For more:
- see these two FCC filings

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