There’s pay TV, and then there’s streaming. Sometimes you’ll watch one, sometimes the other. Sometimes both at the same time. But you don’t really care how your entertainment comes to you, do you? The FCC does, but the good news is there may be some changes on the way that break down the wall between streaming providers and traditional pay-TV providers.
In FCC jargon, pay TV companies like DIRECTV and DISH are called MVPDs, or “multichannel video programming distributors.” The FCC regulates them very carefully. On the other hand are streaming providers like Hulu, Crackle, Netflix and YouTube. The FCC doesn’t spend as much time on these companies, not yet anyway.
According to Broadcast Engineering the FCC could be thinking of changing all that. They could decide that Netflix, Hulu, and that crowd fall under the same rules as DIRECTV and DISH by classifying streaming providers as MVPDs, too.
Actually it’s mostly good. Changing this rule will cause content providers to negotiate with streaming companies on the same level playing field as they do with regular pay-TV companies. Right now, those folks at Viacom, Disney ABC, etc. can just choose to ignore streaming companies. This would make them at least talk before coming up with a ridiculously high price.
It would also open the door for companies like DIRECTV and DISH to start building streaming-only packages. If you want DIRECTV live TV on your iPad right now, you need a dish on the roof somewhere. This would open up dormitories and apartment buildings full of young people who get all their entertainment online.
There isn’t a lot of bad here. It’s possible this could mean more regulation, and there are folks who are against that. It’s also possible that it won’t make any difference if the content providers choose to charge ridiculous prices for streaming. Remember it’s not against the law to charge whatever you want, to charge different rates to different companies, and to let the free market decide.
Hopefully this will be just one of many changes at the FCC when the new commissioners are confirmed this year. If we’re lucky we’ll also see an arbitration system like the sports leagues have, and maybe some other changes that will be friendlier for regular folks and unfriendly to those bossy content providers.