NAB's Kaplan: MVPD redefinition a 'worthy' goal, but FCC doesn't understand its complexities

National Association of Broadcasters EVP of Strategic Planning Rick Kaplan gave the FCC something of a backhanded compliment in a post on the association's policy blog: While lauding the commission's proposal to classify certain over-the-top providers as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), he also said that Chairman Tom Wheeler does not appear "to appreciate the complexities" of the proposed rulemaking.

The crux of that complexity, based on the rest of Kaplan's post, appears to be Aereo and the way the FCC perceives the currently-not-operating OTT service.

"(T)he Chairman misidentifies not only who, but what actually stood in the way of allowing Aereo to continue to misappropriate content," wrote Kaplan, citing a statement made by Wheeler in introducing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). "It wasn't 'the old rules of the FCC.' It was a statute: the Copyright Act."

He pointed out that the Justice Department sided with broadcasters ahead of the June Supreme Court decision that effectively stopped Aereo from continuing to stream over-the-air broadcast signals to subscribers via antennas and DVRs that they rented from the OTT service.

Kaplan continued his dig at the NPRM, apparently finding Wheeler's description of the changing media and entertainment market to be too simplistic, saying, "simply because someone introduces a new service, he or she is not suddenly an 'entrepreneur that shouldn't be hindered by the FCC.' Shouldn't it matter to the FCC, at a bare minimum, whether content is distributed legally or illegally?"

But broadcasters are also innovating "on their own," he added, pointing to ABC's TV Everywhere app, Watch ABC, and a few other upcoming apps, along with CBS' planned OTT service.

The FCC's proposal to redefine MVPDs "presents exciting opportunities for consumers, however, without the proper level of humility and recognition of all of its challenges, it could lead to serious pitfalls," Kaplan wrote. "Tough questions loom, including how to handle a deluge of new potential MVPDs…"

A deluge of new competitors could indeed make for interesting times for NAB members and the video market in general. The organization is already defending against proposals to revamp retransmission consent rules, lobbying successfully against a Local Choice attachment to the recent STELA (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act) bill that would have given pay-TV subscribers the option to pay for individual broadcast services.

But for the moment, redefining MVPDs will take a back seat to other issues, at least this month: The FCC did not include the topic in its November meeting agenda.

For more:
- see this NAB Policy Blog post

Related articles:
FilmOn CEO: FCC 'extremely positive' toward virtual MVPDs, Aereo's subscriber numbers 'really pitiful'
FCC officially proposes pay-TV status for linear OTT services
Mediacom's Larsen on programming costs, Local Choice and TV Everywhere challenges
Senators push for pay TV retransmission reform; broadcasters push back

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