TV is literally everywhere. Whether you’re watching your favorite show on cable television, streaming movies on Netflix or Hulu, or using AppleTV or your smartphone to access the programs of your choice, consumers have the ability these days to watch television wherever they are. With more than 460 million IP-enabled retail devices currently on the market, people no longer have to sit at home waiting for their favorite show to come on their set-top box. In the first quarter of 2015 alone, TV Everywhere (i.e. viewership from smartphones, computers, tablets, and Smart TVs) grew 282% over the past year.
It used to be that MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) had control over the content that was available to you on any given day. But with over 56 million downloads of MVPD apps, now, you don’t have to rely on a cable provider to catch your favorite shows on HBO, AMC, Disney or HGTV, or any number of other channels that now offer stand alone streaming video services.
So why all the fuss over so-called AllVid regulations?
The Federal Communications Commission is considering new ways to supply programming to consumers. But instead of relying on the innovative array of options being created by the app economy, there’s a proposal on the table that would require MVPDs to dismantle their subscription services so that their programming and the various features and functions associated with that service can be mixed, matched, and repackaged based on the preferences of various device-makers.
The challenge – why attempt to fix something that isn’t broken, especially at the expense of programmers?
A recent op-ed in The Tampa Tribune by TV One CEO Alfred C. Liggins III captures perfectly one of the most troubling aspects about proposed AllVid regs: “American viewers have an insatiable appetite for high-quality, entertaining and thought-provoking content. Producing such shows depends on the economic symbiosis between creators and distributors.” Liggins continued that “the proposed AllVid mandate would undermine that partnership, as distributors will be forced to reconsider what they pay for programs that can be siphoned off, repackaged and resold, drying up the revenue needed to underwrite quality shows. And the revenue impact is only part of the story.”
Well-experienced in the challenges of being a diverse programmer, Liggins points out that “television programmers depend on the integrity of licensing and distribution deals to produce their shows. These arrangements — including critical terms such as channel placement, advertising, scheduling and more — are the lifeblood of the video marketplace today. But a government mandate that enables AllVid special interests to pick and choose which of these terms to follow would do severe damage to the programming ecosystem, and in particular, niche and minority-focused networks.” Especially in the case of programmers of color, who already face serious under-capitalization challenges, disrupting the process by which programming deals are negotiated is not only poor practice and policy. It’s bad for business.