Cable Lobby Gripes About Google, AllVid

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) went on the AllVid offensive again, warning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that a proposal led by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) will essentially break the MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) model by ignoring copyrights, patent, licensing and other rules governing the distribution of subscription video services.

The response followed a letter to the FCC last month from Sony, Google, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and other parties urging the FCC to adopt "technical standards that enable any device to present a unified interface" that can blend content from MVPD services with Web-sourced content and content obtained over home networks. Further, they believe copyright and potential theft issues can be addressed by passing along a "copy once" command to the target device.

The NCTA, in a nine-page ex parte filed Tuesday, alleges that what they're really after is a mandate that would allow the disassembling of programming, data and program guide metadata used to create and provide each MVPD's service so that Google & Company "may remake them into a service of its own design."

The cable lobbying arm claims such a rule would violate the affiliate agreements and intellectual property licenses cable uses today to obtain and sell programming packages, which include things like channel placement. "Such terms cannot be replaced by merely passing along a 'copy once' command, as Sony/Google suggest," the NCTA said.

Why this matters
The FCC is being inundated as it considers whether to morph AllVid from a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into a full-fledged rule-making initiative later this year. The FCC has been looking at AllVid as a way to push broadband adoption using network-agnostic video adapters and gateways that can support traditional MVPD content as well as Web-sourced programming.

The cable industry, still smarting from the distraction and expense of the FCC's CableCARD rules, is trying to stop AllVid in its tracks, holding that the market for retail video devices is developing on its own without further government interference. Its examples include recent deals that will allow Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) to deliver its programming to new connected TVs and tablets from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC).

As this week's filing suggests, cable likewise appears quite fearful that an adoption of the Google/Sony idea will not just wreak havoc on the existing business model but turn MSOs into dumb pipes. Those in favor of an AllVid regime think the rules are necessary in order to spur innovation, open the market for video devices, and break down barriers that, they claim, "now isolate television and computer devices from MVPD services."

For more
For more on the history of AllVid and cable's more recent retail moves, please check out these stories:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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