American Cable Association: Big Media hampers small operators | NAB 2016 | Events 2016 | Rapid TV News
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The American Cable Association has informed the Federal Communications Commission that large media conglomerates hinder access to independent video programming.

secnetACA set forth its views in comments filed yesterday in the FCC's Notice of Inquiry on Independent Programming, an official examination to address systemic problems in the cable programming market that hinder access to independent programming. It argued that large players, by imposing forced bundling requirements, penetration obligations and other harmful business models, threaten diversity and the independent landscape.

On the forced bundling front, which is a widespread practice where popular channels are bundled in an all-or-nothing package with niche channels, takes away valuable capacity that low-bandwidth systems could otherwise use for independent programming (or for broadband, with which subscribers could access independent programming). The practice also raises programming costs, ACA argued, making it more difficult for ACA members to afford independent programming.

ACA president and CEO Matthew Polka illustrated this point by noting that many ACA members with capacity and financial constraints want to support a channel with a rural profile, such as the World Fishing Network. “But they can't because large programmers make them carry channels like The Esquire Network, which targets a more upscale, affluent, urban-dwelling environment,” ACA explained.

Polka also pointed to the SEC Network, which is bundled with ESPN. Because of this bundling, small cable operators in the Northwest find themselves carrying the SEC Network to the exclusion of the independent Pac-12 network.

Penetration requirements meanwhile force ACA members to create expanded basic programming tiers “filled with unwanted programming,” the group said, making it impossible for ACA members to offer a "slim bundle" of traditional programming along with Internet video. Meanwhile, “most-favoured nation” clauses (or MFNs) that large distributors demand of independent networks can prevent small cable operators from carrying such networks; and attempts to impose programming fees on Internet access (such as the ESPN3 model) could raise the price of broadband, thereby making it more expensive for consumers to access independent programming.

"ACA members share the FCC's goal to increase programming diversity," Polka said. "These members represent rural communities, and it makes perfect sense for them to carry independent cable networks - especially those that centre on rural life."