A new report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that the FCC is “probing” whether or not cable operators have taken steps to intentionally harm the rise of streaming video. Specifically, the FCC is investigating claims that cable operators cajole broadcasters into keeping content from streaming service competitors. Dish Network effectively accused Charter of this back in December, when it claimed Charter was trying to “sabotage” Sling TV through “thinly veiled complaints to programmers.”
It’s unlikely any cable operator actually put these alleged threats on paper in any clear form, but the FCC appears to be getting some confirmation about these cable company demands from companies like HBO:
Disney said in a summary of its meeting with FCC officials that they asked about ways the pay-TV contracts can inhibit online TV.”We submitted that the FCC should, of course, consider these issues” in the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal, Disney said. In their meeting with the FCC, HBO and its parent firm raised concerns about possible retaliation by Charter against firms that put their content online. HBO recently started its own Internet-based service, HBO Now.
The FCC is of course expected to approve Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and the “probe” is likely tied to whatever conditions the agency applies to the deal. Granted in addition to pressure on broadcasters (who certainly aren’t faultless) cable’s other big tactic to thwart Internet video? Usage caps and zero rating, or the practice of letting your own content be usage cap exempt to gain a competitive advantage. As such Charter has promised the FCC that it will adhere to net neutrality and avoid usage caps for three years after the deal is signed, a window merger critics say isn’t nearly long enough.