Policy

Public-Interest Groups Join ‘Free ivi’ Camp

2/07/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Public-interest groups last week
filed a brief in district court supporting ivi TV’s
streaming of TV station signals without paying
broadcasters any retransmission fees.

Major broadcast groups, including the networkowned,
stations have sought an injunction against
ivi TV, the Web-based content aggregator.

Public Knowledge and Media Access Project,
though, told the court in an amicus brief that ivi is doing
nothing
wrong,
pointing out
t hat t he
Federal
Communications
Commission
has
not yet
ruled on whether Internet video services are subject
to retransmission payments.

“Not being a cable operator in the view of the FCC,
at this time, ivi is under no obligation to comply with
the FCC’s cable rules,” they told the court.

The FCC will ultimately have to make that call if,
as it signaled in the Comcast-NBC Universal merger
conditions, over-the-top video is going to be the next
big thing in delivering multichannel video lineups in
competition to cable and satellite.

If online services are not subject to retransmission-
consent payments, it would tip the competitive
scales toward broadband delivery. Online
services could be cheaper than cable or satellite
without the millions in retransmission payments
that FCC-classified multichannel video programming
distributors (MVPDs) must pay for and pass
on to customers.

It would also dry up a second stream of retransmission
revenue that broadcasters have been counting
on to remain competitive in a digital world.

If the FCC decides they must make payments, services
like ivi will have to pony up.

In denying a request last year from Sky Angel, an
over-the-top religious pay TV provider, to keep Discovery
Communications programming on its lineup,
the FCC signaled that Sky Angel might not be able to
make the case that its service was an MVPD under the
commission’s definition. The FCC also said it had yet
to make the final determination.

The answer could help shape the future of video delivery
in a broadband world.

September