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Big Pay-TV Issues Front and Center

Three news stories are making the rounds that point to fundamental debates going on now in the pay-TV industry. These aren’t minor issues. They’re big, public, business-model-changing negotiations. First comes the latest comments from the NCTA on the FCC’s AllVid NOI. The NCTA does not want AllVid devices to force new unbundled content services on set-tops. Unbundled is code for a-la-carte, and cable, telco, and satellite providers are not at all keen on the idea. Given the major financial challenges of a-la-carte delivery, and the likelihood that disaggregation would only lead to re-aggregation somewhere else, it’s no wonder pay-TV providers don’t relish the prospect.

Second, Heavy Reading has a new report out in conjunction with the TelcoTV show with numbers that suggest US subscribers are willing to pay service providers for multi-screen access to their TV shows. This is significant because TV Everywhere efforts are still in the fledgling stages at this point, and providers are placing their bets without any real evidence yet of how they’ll make money from new multi-screen strategies.

Third and finally, there has been heavy debate this week about the potential impact of the coming Comcast/NBCU merger. The American Cable Association (ACA) proposes that the merger could raise TV subscription fees significantly over the next decade. One of the arguments is that Comcast could potentially charge rival cable providers higher retransmission fees for NBCU content. Given how charged the retransmission issue has become, the ACA has picked a very hot-button issue to challenge the merger on. Comcast refutes the ACA’s data and says the organization’s efforts should “be rejected by the FCC on both substantive and procedural grounds.” Last year Comcast made the explicit point that it would abide by program access rules, and would share programming with competitors.

Comcast refuted the report’s findings, saying it used flawed data and contradicted available data.