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Wheeler 'Concerned' About Blocked Content During Retrans Fights
by Karl Bode 08:32AM Friday May 23 2014
Retransmission disputes between broadcasters and pay TV providers have grown increasingly ugly the last few years, with a soaring number of users facing blacked out content during disputes. Users not only face TV content blackouts, they're then used as public relations pinatas in very public feuds, right before being a deal is covertly struck, and users are socked with rate hikes regardless.

But we've been noting how there's also a growing tactic of blocking consumers from legit online content. For example, CableOne broadband customers currently can't access Viacom content and some websites because CableOne and Viacom are fighting over TV retrans fee rates. Even if you're paying for TV through another provider (like Dish or DirecTV) and have CableOne broadband, you can't access Viacom video content you're technically paying for.

That's a pretty big deal the more you think about it, though so far regulators have napped through this sort of behavior, acting as if it's just "boys being boys" in business negotiations. This week FCC boss Tom Wheeler at least "expressed concern" about the practice in a hearing in DC:
quote:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed concern during a congressional hearing over the growing practice of programmers blocking access to their websites during fights with pay-TV and broadband providers. Asked by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) if such incidents are a sign of the "cable-ization" of the Internet, a reference to the television blackouts that often occur when networks are unable to strike new distribution agreements, Wheeler said it is something "we should all worry about."
Apparently it's not so worrying that the regulators tasked with overseeing the industry should actually do something about it (or even do a little saber rattling), however. In fact none of the companies engaging in any anti-consumer behavior during retrans fights have seen so much as a wrist slap for the practice.

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battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

I'm not sure I see the problem..

With most channels don't you have to be a subscriber to get content? If the content provider yanks their channels from your provider's lineup you are no longer a customer which means you don't have access to the content.

If the content is free to anyone, subscriber or not, then I can see a problem. If the content is available only to subscribers then I don't see a problem.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.
ITGeeks

join:2014-04-20
Cleveland, OH

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

Yes you do. the FCC is only making a big deal about of this because the courts tossed to their illegal rules they created years ago. Once this all settles down the FCC will go back to doing what they do best- getting sued.

dnoyeB
Ferrous Phallus

join:2000-10-09
Southfield, MI
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

1 recommendation

But these people are subscribers. For example, they are subscribers because they have Satellite. But their internet access to the network they subscribe to is being blocked by their internet provider. That internet provider also happens to be a cable company. Maybe they could make a case for blocking their own cable tv customers from internet access to the network but I don't think they can make a case for blocking other people that are currently subscribed to the network through a 3rd party like Satellite.

Actually I don't think they can make a case either way and this just highlights the need for strong Network Neutrality laws.
--
dnoyeB
"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom [is] despised, and his words are not heard. " Ecclesiastes 9:16

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

With my ESPN account I have to use an account that's tied to my TV provider and not my ISP. This is why I can use my Watch ESPN app at the office (we are not a video provider) or on anyone's network.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.
LurkerLito

join:2004-06-08

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

Using your example, what is happening here is you go over to your friends house and want to watch ESPN, but thanks to your friend's ISP being cable one you are denied access because ESPN is having a fight with Cable One, so to punish Cable One they blanket block all traffic from Cable One. It doesn't matter if you should have access being a customer from a different TV Provider, you are blocked because the IP address you are trying to access from is blocked by ESPN.
davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:2
"But their internet access to the network they subscribe to is being blocked by their internet provider."

I thought that once the content provider pulled content from a pay TV delivery system that they could also pulling any internet access, to that same content, that those particular pay TV delivery system subscribers had been allowed to access. The content provider is the one deciding not to provide access, not the ISP.

ISPs that provide TV content delivery services usually ask for the access to the content source to continue during negotiations, using the just expired contract's payment terms. It is the content source that usually decides not to do so.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR
said by dnoyeB:

But their internet access to the network they subscribe to is being blocked by their internet provider.

That is not true.

Read the article again. It is VIACOM that is blocking the ISP, not the other way around. As such, it is not a Net Neutrality violation, because NN applies only to retail ISPs.

NN rules don't apply to content providers like Viacom.

tubbynet
reminds me of the danse russe
Premium,MVM
join:2008-01-16
Chandler, AZ
kudos:1
said by battleop:

With most channels don't you have to be a subscriber to get content?

thats a case-by-case issue.
if you look at comedy central -- which is owned by viacom -- i can point $device at comedycentral.com and watch full episodes of content that aired on cc, without having to log-in using $television_providers credentials. because of this -- the content is "available to everyone" and shouldn't be blocked during a retrans.

taking that a step forward -- if your content *is* behind a paywall *and* $provider and $content_owner are having a retrans dispute -- a log-in using credentials from $provider could generate a pop-up stating as much. of course -- that is sure to also receive negative press.

q.
--
"...if I in my north room dance naked, grotesquely before my mirror waving my shirt round my head and singing softly to myself..."

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1
I can only get ESPN content from one place, Comcast. I can't go directly to the ESPN site and pay them to view content. Seems like Comcast could just do the same thing they do with Netflix, force Disney to pay up if they want their content to be viewed by millions of people.

What are my other options as a consumer?

I did the only thing I could when I was unhappy with the service provided, I cancelled my TV subscription, but that's not a viable option for many people, and it shouldn't ever have to be the only option available.

Though DirecTV and Dish are available to some customers, I suppose once these satellite TV providers are gobbled up by competitors, there really will be no choice for any of us, and the TV providers will be able to dictate all of the terms.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

My mom and mother-in-law are both subscribers to Comcast. I just use their accounts to watch ESPN on a non Comcast connection.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR
said by jmn1207:

I can only get ESPN content from one place, Comcast. I can't go directly to the ESPN site and pay them to view content.

That is an ESPN decision, not a Comcast decision.

ESPN is free to market and distribute their content anyway they like. If they want to tie it to an "approved" ISP, they have that right. And it's not a Net Neutrality violation.

NN applies to retail ISPs, not the edge provider / content provider like ESPN.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

Yes, I understand. My point was that Comcast should have the power to force content providers to pay them or get very good deals by withholding access to their customers.

The business model employed by ESPN and a few others is simply stifling innovation in an effort to hold on to their antiquated delivery method. It should be a NN issue, but that whole idea is just a farce at this point.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1
During these fights the ISPs should tell people how to get a VPN to bypass the blocking. VPNs are not illegal and as such the ISP would be breaking no laws.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports
davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:2

Re: I'm not sure I see the problem..

That is a good way to lose the emerging support and understanding from some politicians that the content owners demands are the problem. In some cases it may be better to be seen as being subjected to unwarranted financially abusive negotiations from content owners, than to find the somewhat complex work around of a VPN.

buzz_4_20

join:2003-09-20
Limestone, ME

Wait just a minute.

He has a problem with content being blocked?
But he supports crippling the internet via throttling based how much users pay?

WTF man... pick one.

Jason Levine
Premium
join:2001-07-13
USA

Re: Wait just a minute.

Maybe he would be fine if the content wasn't blocked but the resolution on the video was reduced to 8 bit graphics quality (simulating an "Internet slow lane"). "We're sorry that your show is unwatchable and looks like a 80's computer game. Please contact the owner of the channel and tell them to pay us more money to get in our "super high definition TV lane."
--
-Jason Levine
rfrooney

join:2006-02-26
Antioch, TN

This is the wrong approach.

Comcrap includes Viacom channels in my cable tv package. If Comcrap has a problem with Viacom then so be it, but I am due a credit for the programming that has been blacked out. Comcrap is committing fraud by charging me to access Viacom content and then refusing to deliver it. The Consumer Protection Commission needs to get involved and sue Comcrap.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR

Re: This is the wrong approach.

said by rfrooney:

Comcrap includes Viacom channels in my cable tv package. If Comcrap has a problem with Viacom then so be it, but I am due a credit for the programming that has been blacked out. Comcrap is committing fraud by charging me to access Viacom content and then refusing to deliver it. The Consumer Protection Commission needs to get involved and sue Comcrap.

In this case, using your hypothetical, it is Viacom blocking their signal from Comcast, not the other way around. If Viacom wants more money, it's really to your benefit that Comcast fight them. Otherwise (like Bode said), they will simply pass the fee increase along to you as another rate increase.
davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:2
Comcast is not refusing to deliver Viacom content. Viacom refuses to negotiate while keeping the existing contract terms in force, thus Comcast cannot legally deliver the content. Comcast can be sued significantly if they delivered Viacom contact without legal permission to do so.