Aereo urges FCC to expand MVPD definition, retrans rules

Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia and other company executives met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week to express support for a rumored FCC rulemaking that would make it possible for some over-the-top video services to be considered as MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors). It's a scenario that could see Aereo streaming broadcast signals to subscribers once again.

"Aereo stated in the meetings its support for the issuance by the Commission of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to define or construe 'MVPD' to include a narrow category of internet-based services whose facilities deliver to subscribers linear channels of video programming such as local, over-the-air broadcast programming," an ex parte filing by Aereo read.

Basically, if certain Internet-based service providers--like Aereo, for example--can be defined as MVPDs, they can then negotiate with broadcasters and distributors to retransmit their linear signals over the Internet, just as cable operators do today.

While it's not known if the FCC will create a NPRM for this issue, Aereo's case may have planted a bug in the commissioner's ear. The Supreme Court, in its ruling that decided the service was violating broadcasters' copyrights, also mentioned that Aereo's service seemed more like a cable company. Aereo has run with that ball ever since.

It's not just a cool idea, according to the filing: Consumers are demanding linear broadcast over OTT. "Aereo's experience in the market has demonstrated that consumers want and will subscribe to a service that provides convenient access to local broadcast television programs via the internet for a reasonable monthly fee."

For Aereo, FCC rules that allow this to take place would help it get back to its core business of streaming broadcast stations to subscribers. However, the service would still need to cross a final hurdle: getting broadcasters to agree to license their content to Aereo for retransmission. Even though a ruling would compel them to do so, broadcasters might try to do their own OTT thing.

The Washington Post pointed out that such a ruling would open up a new advertising avenue for broadcasters, whose revenues in that area have been limited to linear over-the-air and cable advertising.

"It'd be a double victory for the broadcasters: Not only would it would put an end to a years-long battle over fees and represent Aereo's unconditional surrender on that question specifically, but it would also open up new opportunities for broadcasters to make advertising dollars."

Aereo, for its part, said it welcomes new competition while emphasizing that "regulatory clarity" is needed in this area. "Should the FCC move on this issue, it would be a meaningful and important step forward for competition in the video marketplace," Kanojia said in a blog post on the company's website.

For more:
- see this Aereo ex parte filing
- and this Washington Post story

Related articles:
Rumor mill: Aereo-like platforms may be given program licensing rights by FCC
Appeals court shoots down Aereo's latest attempt for retrans license
In battle for the Internet, Aereo sinks, FilmOn shrugs, net neutrality holds fast