FCC mulls MVPD status for OTT
Michelle Clancy
| 01 October 2014
US regulator the FCC is seeking to give over-the-top (OTT) video providers status as multichannel video providers, putting them on parity with cable MSOs and satellite companies.

According to reports, the commission is considering extending its programme access rules to online providers that provide linear video streams, and allow them to negotiate retransmission deals with broadcasters.

An FCC spokesperson told Multichannel News that the idea is to create a technology-neutral definition of an MVPD, thus eliminating the requirement of having facilities-based transmission path in order to be guaranteed access to TV stations via must-carry rules and retransmission.

The change would have implications for the likes of Aereo, for instance. It went to the Supreme Court in April to defend its right to exist in the face of copyright infringement suits from every major broadcaster they argued that because the company broadcasts local feeds via the Internet without paying retransmission fees, it's essentially stealing their content. Aereo has counter-argued that because it provides dime-sized antennae to its subscribers who pay $8 per month for access to a couple dozen channels it constitutes an over-the-air, rabbit ears-based service, which is exempt from retrans fees. It has also argued that its content is delivered to a single cloud-based DVR device for one subscriber and can therefore not be categorised as a public broadcast service, subject to fees and regulations.

The Supreme Court sided with the broadcasters, after which Aereo tried to gain cableco status in order to gain access to programming which the courts ultimately blocked. The FCC's reclassification of OTT providers as multichannel video providers would change the game for Aereo and its entire ilk.