DirecTV's Can of Worms
6:25 PM -- The new deal between DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and the NFL for the NFL Sunday Ticket package highlights some interesting implications for network neutrality. Starting in 2012, the new deal allows DirecTV to market a broadband version of the package to non-DirecTV customers who can't access their satellite signal for whatever reason. (As a side note: How in the world will that be enforced?) Conceivably, broadband customers can then purchase the package and have it delivered via the Internet, rather than satellite.
So here's the rub, if I'm a telco TV (or cable) provider who competes with DirecTV, why should I be forced to carry their revenue-generating programming package via broadband? A commenter on my Telecompetitor blog compared this to CBS offering NBC programming on CBS for free, with the caveat "It'll never happen." OK, not an apples-to-apples comparison, but you get the point.
In the current multichannel video world, service providers insert their own margins for premium programming like HBO or even existing sports packages like NBA League Pass. But early indications suggest that's not translating to the online world. Should competitors be forced to offer access to each other's online premium services, without the ability to generate their own margins?
As more and more premium programming becomes available online, this net neutrality issue gets bigger. I'm not here to defend one position or the other. In fact I could argue both sides. The issue of restricting equal access to content for consumers who pay for broadband connectivity is a slippery slope -- one that has to be watched closely. But reasonable minds can surely see the conflict in this DirecTV situation.
— Bernie Arnason, Managing Partner, Pivot Group , and Chairman, TelcoTV 2009