Dish launched its online video service Sling TV last week in conjunction with the annual CES show in Las Vegas. The timing, however, has put Dish squarely on the FCC's radar. (See Dish Slings OTT Service – What It Means.)
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tries to determine the potential impact of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), the regulatory agency is looking for details on how online service providers are negotiating programming deals. With that goal in mind, the FCC sent a public letter to Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) this week requesting that the satellite TV operator "provide copies of any and all agreements" made with programmers that are now part of the Sling TV service. These include A&E Networks, CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), Comcast, ABC Inc. , Scripps Networks and Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
Dish has until January 23 to comply with the Commission's request.
While the FCC has publicly stated that all documents will be treated as confidential, the programmers involved with Sling TV are no doubt unhappy to have their contracts placed under such scrutiny. Earlier complaints by media companies about FCC oversight of their distribution deals led to a pause in the agency's review of the Comcast/TWC deal. Ultimately, however, the FCC restarted the process, even as the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia continues to examine whether certain documents related to programming contracts should be released for regulatory evaluation. (See Mega Media Deals Back on the Clock.)
(Note: The FCC paused the merger shot clock again in late December for other reasons, but resumed its review again this week.)
As Recode noted, Dish is just the latest online service provider to come under the FCC's microscope. The agency has asked for similar information from Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) , Hulu LLC , Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and others.
Dish, meanwhile, has made no secret of its opposition to the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable transaction. One of the company's primary arguments is that the planned merger of the nation's two largest cable operators could make it more difficult to secure online programming distribution rights.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading