4C - leaderboard - 4-25-18

Analysis for 'FCC'

  • VideoNuze Podcast #355: Millennials Go Cordless, Netflix Reality TV, YouTube Targeting and FCC’s Overhaul

    I’m pleased to present the 355th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    This week we discuss four topics that caught our attention and we wrote about: research from GFK MRI that 30% of U.S. millennials are now “cordless” (here), Netflix’s move into reality TV programming (here); Google enabling YouTube ad targeting based on users’ searches (here) and the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai (here). We dig into all of these topics and discuss their implications.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #338: The Rise of Dumb Authentication Services and Amazon’s Disruptive Role

    I'm pleased to present the 338th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    Today we first dig into an idea Colin outlined earlier this week, that pay-TV could become a “dumb authentication service” as the trend of subscribers migrating their TV viewing away from set-top boxes and toward authenticated TV apps on connected TV devices gains momentum. This is an important shift that is already happening for many people (listen to our podcast 2 weeks ago for more).

    In this model pay-TV operators still continue to authenticate viewers and manage billing, but do little else. In fact, the FCC’s current plans to “unlock the box” mean the scenario has even more credibility. We agree that’s a precarious place for operators to be and opens up opportunities for disruptors, like Amazon.

    Speaking of Amazon, just this week it made 2 important updates to its Fire TV devices which reinforce the growing role the company is playing in the SVOD and TV ecosystems and why it so well-positioned. Building on this, just today Bloomberg reported Amazon is now eyeing live sports deals, which would push it even further into pay-TV’s turf.

    Listen now to learn more!

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  • Cable TV’s Quandary: While Brand Names Can Change Easily, Reputations Die Hard

    After a long and arduous regulatory review, earlier this week Charter Communications closed on its $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and its $10.4 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks. Following the closings, Charter plans to phase out the Time Warner Cable and Bright House brands, re-branding its entire new footprint Charter, with service name Spectrum.

    Many TWC subscribers will gladly bid adieu to a brand that has had one of the worst rankings, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, in an industry that itself endures rock bottom scores. Of course, simply changing a company’s name isn’t sufficient to effect real change; rather, it’s the underlying service that must tangibly improve, a point that Charter CEO Tom Rutledge clearly stated in this interview with Bloomberg.

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  • Perspective What's this? Will The FCC Proposal To Unlock Set-Top Boxes Bring Change Or More Of The Same?

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating a proposal that would “tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices and other innovative solutions to compete with the set-top boxes that a majority of consumers must lease today.” The proposal is up for vote on February 18.
     
    According to the FCC, the set-top box (STB) business costs consumers $20B per year. The intent of the proposal is to open the market to competition, giving consumers the option to buy STBs from third-parties, presumably at a lower price.
     
    But we’ve seen this movie before – a few times, actually. Previous FCC mandates following similar proposals has resulted in the cable industry implementing CableCard, OpenCable (OCAP) and, most recently, Tru2Way. In all of these cases, the so-called solutions fell short in one way or another as the status quo prevailed.  This begs the question: can a new FCC-mandated approach be successful or does this movie have the same old ending? Let’s take a deeper look at what the FCC actually wants to accomplish, the proposed solutions and new approaches that could make this time different.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #309: Cable Operators Buck Cord-Cutting; FCC’s Set-Top Box Mandate

    I'm pleased to present the 309th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week we discuss Comcast’s robust Q4 ’15 earnings results. Despite all of the talk of cord-cutting, Comcast had its best year for video subscribers in 8 years, improving its loss to just 39K. In addition, both Charter and Time Warner Cable actually reported video subscriber gains for 2015.

    Once again, Comcast cited its X1 next-gen set-top box as the key driver of success. Colin and I have talked about X1’s value in the past, and it’s clearly a game-changer for the company.

    Ironically, Comcast’s success with X1 is happening even as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is calling for a new technology mandate on the pay-TV industry to give access to third-party set-tops. Colin and I discuss why we think market forces are a superior choice to government intervention.

    Last, we’ll both be watching the Super Bowl this weekend, which will be a milestone in allowing cord-cutters and cord-nevers to stream for free to connected TV devices.
     
    Listen now to learn more!

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  • Roku's Hybrid Set-Top Underscores Folly of FCC's Latest Regulatory Move

    Late last week Roku announced it was developing a hybrid set-top box, expanding on the “Roku Powered” partner program it announced back in September, 2014. Roku’s hybrid set-top will give pay-TV operators a single, inexpensive device to deliver linear and OTT services. Variety also reported that Roku has raised an additional $45.5 million, bringing total funding to date to approximately $200 million.  

    Ironically (though perhaps not coincidentally), Roku’s hybrid set-top news came at the end of a week during which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled a new regulatory initiative to “Unlock the Set-Top Box.” While his plan is light on details, it would essentially impose a new technology mandate on pay-TV operators to provide access to their programming to device manufacturers such that new interfaces and retail business models could be developed.

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  • How Will Comcast Proceed On Time Warner Cable Deal In Wake of FCC's Net Neutrality Vote?

    With the FCC voting 3-2 to enact net neutrality regulations under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the focus now shifts to how Comcast proceeds on its planned Time Warner Cable acquisition. The $45 billion deal, combining the two largest U.S. cable TV operators, was announced in February, 2014, and has been in the regulatory slow lane for months as net neutrality took center stage.

    Once perceived as virtually guaranteed to be approved given Comcast's formidable lobbying apparatus, the deal is now seen as having no better than a 50-50 chance by many analysts. While Comcast continues to express confidence the deal will be approved and close in early 2015 (and even internally circulated a combined company organizational structure), the dynamic regulatory, political and industry landscapes make any bets on the deal's outcome a total crapshoot.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #262 - Candid Discussion of Net Neutrality's Risks

    I'm pleased to present the 262nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Today we candidly discuss the potential impact of the FCC's new net neutrality regulations.

    Over the past 20 years we've all benefited from a continuous improvement in wired and mobile broadband connectivity (albeit not perfectly consistent by geography or provider), fostered mainly by a "light touch" regulatory environment that spurred private sector ISPs to invest tens of billions of dollars in network upgrades. Content and services have flourished across both wired and mobile networks.

    Although I strongly believe we should continue to have an open Internet, and have no issue with rules that would have ensured that, I explain why using the 80 year-old Title II model to classify broadband as a utility was incorrect. Mainly I believe it will drive lots of litigation and create lots of regulatory uncertainty for broadband ISPs, which translates into disincentives to invest and further upgrade their networks. As a result, ongoing innovations in content and services, which rest on the foundation of broadband improvements, will inevitably be impacted.

    Further, I'm always wary of the risk of "unintended consequences" that accompany any new regulations. As such, preemptive regulation - such as yesterday's - where no fundamental problem even yet exists, makes me even more anxious. In short, my attitude is "don't fix what ain't broke."

    I fully recognize that I hold a minority opinion on this because I've discussed the topic with many people in the industry already. Colin disagrees with me, for example, because he believes the disincentive to invest argument is overblown. Unfortunately, I think the whole net neutrality debate has become so confused and politicized that any real purpose of potential government intervention has long since been lost.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #259 - Mobile Video's Growth, Debating Net Neutrality

    I'm pleased to present the 259th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week, we discuss mobile video's explosive growth. Cisco's new forecast puts mobile video's share of overall mobile traffic at 72% by 2019, up from 55% in 2014. Mobile video will account for 17.4 exabytes out of the 24.3 exabytes that cross global mobile networks in 2019. We dig into the contributing factors.

    Next up, this week saw the long-expected announcement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler of net neutrality rules for broadband ISPs. The proposed reclassification to Title II follows President Obama's strong recommendation. While I agree that broadband is now a lifeline service, to me this still feels like a solution in search of a genuine problem. Colin disagrees and thinks Title II is the right move. We also discuss the prospects for approval of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in light of the new regulations.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #255 - Assessing Sling TV's Prospects; CES Recap

    I'm pleased to present the 255th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.

    First up this week we assess the prospects for Dish Network's upcoming Sling TV OTT service, which Colin and I each wrote about earlier this week (here and here). We both see Sling TV's slim programming selection as its biggest challenge. Dish is confronting the challenge that both broadcast and cable TV networks are very expensive to carry and so, to the extent Dish wants to keep Sling TV as affordable as possible, it must severely limit what's included.

    We then recap some of the news out of CES that caught our attention including several announcements around 4K TV, the Cisco-Charter partnership for cloud delivery/security and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to regulate broadband under Title II.

    Listen in to learn more!



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  • Obama Proposes Regulating Broadband as a Utility

    This morning President Obama made his strongest endorsement yet for net neutrality, releasing a statement and video (see below) explicitly endorsing the reclassification of broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act, effectively regulating broadband as a utility (note, the change isn't Obama's to make, it's the FCC's, which is an independent agency).

    If the FCC did make the change it would be the most significant update to broadband regulatory policy since 2002 when broadband was classified under Title I as a lightly regulated "information service." The change to Title II would mean broadband ISPs would have to adhere to regulations dating back to 1934. In one bit of good news for ISPs, Obama specifically said rates should be excluded from Title II regulation (which means usage-based pricing could still be implemented). Any proposed change is guaranteed to be challenged in the courts by ISPs.

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  • FCC's Proposed Broadening of Video Rules Seems Unlikely to Spur Major Market Change

    Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post that he intends to start a rule making proceeding to broaden the definition of what a multichannel video programming distributor (an "MVPD," or more simply, a cable, satellite, telco operator that distributes bundles of cable and broadcast TV networks) is, to include companies that don't actually own their own delivery infrastructure. My weekly podcast partner Colin Dixon and I call these non-infrastructure companies virtual pay-TV operators, or "vPops" for short.

    This "technology-neutral" change would mean vPops using the Internet/broadband to deliver linear TV networks would also be considered MVPDs, therefore entitled to the same regulatory-mandated benefits. Wheeler characterized the move as being pro-consumer and pro-innovation and on the face of it, it definitely appears to be. But, digging deeper, it's not clear that this type of regulatory change would overcome actual market forces that will still determine the average viewer's video choices.

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  • Why the Timing is Now Perfect for a Netflix-Comcast Partner Deal

    If your head is still spinning from last week's HBO/CBS/potential cord-cutting news, then buckle up, because here's another doozy that seems ripe to be right around the corner: a partnership deal between Netflix and Comcast. You heard that right - two companies that have been sniping at each for years now have a perfect moment to strike a partnership deal with significant upside to both.

    First, as far as the deal itself, it would roughly follow the template Netflix has already established with large pay-TV operators in Europe and smaller ones in the U.S. All those deals' details aren't known, but at a minimum they include operators integrating Netflix's app into their IP-based set-top boxes'/devices' UI, certain co-marketing arrangements, and some type of revenue sharing by Netflix (i.e. one-time new subscriber bounties and/or ongoing revenue sharing).

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  • Net Neutrality in Focus If Verizon Launches OTT Pay-TV Service Using Intel Media Assets

    This morning Verizon finally made official what has been rumored for months - its acquisition of Intel Media's assets, including its OnCue and its IP-based TV set-top box. With the deal (plus other recent acquisitions of upLynk and EdgeCast), Verizon is now well-positioned to launch an over-the-top pay-TV service outside of its FiOS footprint.

    If and when it does so, then last week's net neutrality ruling takes on even higher importance, because incumbent cable operators/broadband ISPs would either have to allow Verizon's traffic through, unfettered, creating direct OTT competition for their core pay-TV services, or discriminate against Verizon, creating a perception of anti-competitiveness and no doubt, a PR firestorm.

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  • Risk to Net Neutrality is Minimal Even Though FCC's Open Internet Has Been Overturned

    Earlier today the DC Court of Appeals threw out the FCC's Open Internet net neutrality rules. Net neutrality advocates are upset with the FCC for pursuing an illogical regulatory path from the start. They are deeply worried that now, unencumbered by net neutrality regulations, big broadband ISPs (which also happen to be the biggest pay-TV providers) will begin to discriminate against third-party online video services by shunting them to "slow lanes" and charging new delivery "tolls."

    I completely understand these concerns, but I for one don't envision any of this happening, at least not in the foreseeable future. Some of you are no doubt thinking - Will's naive, he's an idiot, he's a shill, etc. so let me explain.

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  • Still No Consensus On Broadband ISP Usage Cap Policies

    AT&T made big headlines this week for unveiling a plan to cap monthly usage by its DSL subscribers at 150GB and its U-Verse subscribers at 250GB. Whereas other broadband ISPs like Comcast have long had a 250GB cap in place, what's different about AT&T's plan is that it is proactively saying it will charge $10 for every 50GB users exceed the limit. Other ISPs have tended to use the cap solely as a mechanism for throttling the tiny portion of users who exceed the cap, rather than as a way of generating extra revenue.

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  • House Republicans' Assault on Net Neutrality Begins Next Week

    Republicans on Capitol Hill will start their long-stated attempts to overturn the FCC's net neutrality regulations next Wednesday, with the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee planning a hearing. House Republicans have made no secret of their scorn for the FCC's net neutrality regulations and seem committed to doing whatever's necessary to block them from taking effect. While I've often said that net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem, the FCC's rules are actually not very burdensome, and to the extent that broadband ISPs abide by them, it feels unlikely that they would be expanded any time soon. Still, Republicans view this as an overreach by the government. It will be interesting to see how strongly Senate Democrats and President Obama come to net neutrality's defense, given all the other things competing for their attention.
     
  • Cable Industry Skirmishes With FCC Over Set-top Boxes

    Speaking of set-top boxes, the cable industry, through its NCTA lobbying arm, was skirmishing this week on yet another regulatory front, the FCC's ongoing "AllVid" inquiry, which would possibly crack open the customer premise equipment (CPE) by establishing an IP-based standard. Google, Sony and other CE companies are lobbying for AllVid as a way of streamlining delivery of over-the-top content into living rooms. Cable operators are arguing that such a move would compromise existing network licensing models. A more overarching concern is that a regulatory mandated approach would significantly level the playing field for new entrants to compete for consumers' attention.

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  • Verizon Challenges Net Neutrality Regulations

    Yesterday Verizon appealed the FCC's new net neutrality regulations in the DC Court of Appeals, alleging that the FCC has exceeded its authority. The move is a little surprising given that last August Verizon seemed accepting of net neutrality, by submitting a joint net neutrality proposal with Google. What the two submitted and what the FCC eventually passed are different in a number of ways, but one way that they're similar is in the light regulatory touch granted to wireless Internet ISPs, which was a key focus of Verizon's given its massive wireless business. Even the treatment of wired ISPs wasn't terribly onerous, which is one of the reasons why a number of consumer advocacy organizations are also threatening a challenge to the FCC.

    Other than trying to subvert the FCC's authority generally, it's not entirely clear to me what Verizon's trying to accomplish here. One thing's for sure, Verizon will have plenty of help from Republicans who are also challenging net neutrality.
     
  • In Approving Comcast-NBCU, the FCC Blesses the Cable Model

    Reading yesterday's FCC press release approving the Comcast-NBCU transaction, my main reaction was that rather than using the opportunity to try to force fundamental changes in the core cable business model, the FCC, through its key conditions, instead essentially blessed it.

    Comcast - and by extension other pay-TV operators - must be delighted that their core packaging and pricing philosophies were basically untouched. Cable networks and studios should also be happy that their ability to monetize through the monthly affiliate model remained intact as was their flexibility to monetize online (mostly). As a result, the large ecosystem of participants in the video ecosystem (e.g. talent, production personnel, etc.) should also be happy that their economic well-being won't be disrupted. Lastly, investors in the pay-TV ecosystem should also be happy; it's always a good day when the government chooses not to meddle in markets that are working pretty nicely from investors' perspective.

    To get more specific, in the press release there are 7 key conditions under the heading, "Protecting the Development of Online Competition" that Comcast and/or Comcast/NBCU are required to follow. These relate to online video and I have listed them out below. After each one I have added my analysis/reactions.

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