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The Federal Communications Commission is eyeing a change in its definition of a "multichannel video programming distributor" that may pave the way for an Apple Internet TV service.
According to "ZDNet" reporter Sean Portnoy, MVPDs to date have been limited to companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Verizon, the commission is mulling whether online companies like Hulu or Netflix could fall under that definition.
An MVPD is a service provider delivering video programming services, usually for a subscription fee (pay TV). These operators currently include cable television (CATV) systems, direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) providers, and wireline video providers including Verizon FiOS as well as AT&T U-verse and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) using IPTV.
The importance of being an MVPD is that such firms have the right to be able to distribute certain programming that they would otherwise have to negotiate separate contracts for, notes Portnoy. The result could be "potentially disruptive for the pay TV industry," he adds.
How might the ruling affect Apple?
"Rather than going to each channel and attempting to negotiate -- or, according to some, bully -- it into a deal for programming, Apple could just offer a slew of channels like any cable provider," Portnoy writes. "It could help spur the growing movement for 'cord cutting' -- people using online video services to replace their pay TV subscription. While those pay TV providers would still be the dominant way consumers get Internet access to access online MVPDs, allowing more competitors could further erode subscribers’ willingness to bundle Internet connectivity with TV packages."
This isn't quite the "a la carte" option that many folks like myself want -- an option in which you pay for/subscribe only to the channels you want instead of paying for a bundle of channels. But if the FCC ruling comes to pass, it could hasten the arrival of the much-rumored "iTV," an Apple-branded HDTV.
-- Dennis Sellers