FilmOn's David: Amazon, Google lobbying 'heavily' against regulating OTT providers as MVPDs

With a ruling for his linear OTT company in place, FilmOn CEO Alki David is continuing to lobby the FCC to move forward with rulemaking that would classify certain OTT providers as MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) and allow them to negotiate broadcast retransmission licenses. However, he said that online video provider Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and major ISPs including Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) are also heavily lobbying the commission against revising current rules for MVPDs.

"I know through relationships at Amazon that [Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel] has been lobbied heavily by large Internet companies," said David in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo, noting that Rosenworcel's vote is critical to getting the new rules approved.

The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to discuss changes to the current definition of MVPDs in December. The commission will likely vote on those rules this fall according to Chairman Tom Wheeler, and lobbying activity by organizations and companies supporting both sides is picking up.

In an Instagram post, David said that CBS, Google and Amazon would "just pull up the ladder and shut the doors to real innovation." He urged Rosenworcel not to "sell out" to larger Internet and online video players.

David called new linear OTT entrant YipTV a "stalking horse" in the same post, suggesting they were being used to gauge the level of opposition to new MVPD rules. "With YipTV it was more about calling them out: 'What are you saying you don't want to be regulated?' They were being used as a stalking horse by Commissioner Pai as being an OTT provider that did not want regulation," David said to FierceOnlineVideo.

FilmOn filed its most recent statement with the FCC on Oct. 9 following David's visit to two commissioners' offices, those of Ajit Pai, Michael O'Rielly and Counselor Gigi Sohn.

"FilmOn X urged the Commission to move forward expeditiously to adopt the item and to adopt appropriate rules to facilitate regulatory parity and new competition," the company said in the filing, made available on Tuesday. FilmOn X said it favors a light regulatory touch and that adopting new MVPD rules will allow nascent online video distributors to compete with "entrenched legacy video providers and large-scale media companies" as well as spur innovation.

Major distributors and Internet companies have their own reasons to be against changing MVPD regulations. Disney, Fox and CBS recently filed a joint comment saying that the current OTT market is a healthy environment for new entrants and that no changes are needed.

Amazon filed an ex parte in early September that said its live-streaming gaming channel, Twitch, is a good example of an innovative Internet video startup that would suffer if it was classified under MVPD rules. If Twitch's live content was declared a channel subject to regulation, "such unintended consequences could be highly damaging, inadvertently causing the government to significantly distort a new and alternative video segment that is growing and flourishing without any government intervention," Amazon said.

David said that FilmOn will continue its lobbying efforts at the FCC. Having rules that favor linear OTT providers being classified as MVPDs would be an advantage in Fox's appeal of the court ruling against it, he said. And it's better for the industry overall, David said. "From the point of view of wanting to do business in a uniform, standardized way so there's equal competition, I think it's vital for the OTT business to be regulated."

Above: David's Oct. 9 Instagram post.

For more:
- see this Law360 article (sub. req.)
- see this IEEE Communications Society post
- see this FilmOn FCC filing

Related articles:
Apple, Amazon and other big online video distributors tell FCC not to regulate them as MVPDs
FilmOn CEO goads broadcasters, calling them 'outdated,' but court battles aren't over yet
Federal court rules that Alki David's FilmOn should be treated as MVPD
Aereo, FilmOn hopes rise again as FCC moves to redefine MVPDs

Updated Oct. 14 to clarify Fox v. FilmOn X LLC decision.

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