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NBCU 'Full Freight' Talk Hints at Virtual MSOs

Online video dominates the broadband and cable news headlines this morning.
  • Comcast Corp. disclosed in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that its NBCUniversal LLC unit has "received and is negotiating several 'full freight' requests" for online video distribution deals. "Full freight" refers to the entire linear television line-up, and the news suggests there are new online players looking to get serious in the TV business. As part of the conditions of its NBCU acquisition, Comcast agreed to license the company's content to online distributors under the same terms and conditions provided to traditional MVPDs (multichannel video programing distributors). (See Comcast-NBCU Rules to Frustrate OTT Players.) While Comcast might not like the idea of competing with new online service providers, the conditions are there to prevent the company from using its ownership of NBCU to create unfair market advantage. No word yet on who Comcast may be negotiating new deals with, but Intel Corp. recently announced a plan to launch an over-the-top video service later this year. (See Intel Preps Its Internet TV Service.)
  • Speaking of streaming, Microsoft Corp. is getting its first movie premiere on Xbox Live today, albeit only in the U.K. Makers of the British flick, Pulp, opted to debut on the gaming console because of the high cost of traditional movie theater distribution. While Microsoft has decided not to pursue its own subscription TV service, the company has said it will offer more exclusive films in the future. (See Pay-TV: Too Costly to Replicated Online?)
  • North of the border, Astral Media is trying to put a stopper in a new rival streaming video service from Videotron Ltd. The Canadian media company claims the Netflix Inc.-like Videotron offering, dubbed Illico Club Unlimited, competes with Astral's French-language pay TV movie channel, Super Ecran. That, the company claims, puts Videotron in violation of regulations that afford "genre protection" to Astral’s general-interest pay-TV channel. The MSO counters the complaint is without legal merit, and that Astral is attempting "to protect and indeed expand its historical monopoly over pay television, which has stood for more than 30 years."
  • Cable's primary lobbying arm, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), wants everyone to know just how much cable companies are spending on their broadband networks every year. In a chart posted on its CableTechTalk blog, the agency shows capex infrastructure spending from 1996 onward, noting that peak spending occurred in the early 2000s, along with 2007 and 2008. While spending is down since then, investments have still topped $13 billion each of the last four years. — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable
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