It’s going to be apps or else for MVPDs. In an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler clarified proposed rule changes first announced earlier in the year that will allow consumers to use third-party devices to access cable and satellite content instead of being restricted to set-top boxes provided by their cable and satellite providers.
If the rules are adopted, pay TV provider will be required to issue free apps that consumers can download to the device of their choosing that give them access to all the programming and features that they pay for.
“If you want to watch Comcast’s content through your Apple TV or Roku, you can,” Wheeler explained in the op-ed. “If you want to watch DirecTV’s offerings through your Xbox, you can. If you want to pipe Verizon’s service directly to your smart TV, you can. And if you want to watch your current pay-TV package on your current set-top box, you can do that, too. The choice is yours. No longer will you be forced to rent set-top boxes from your pay-TV provider.”
As he did in a an op-ed piece for Re/Code back in January, Wheeler cited a study that found that 99% of pay-TV customers lease set-top boxes from their cable, satellite or telco providers, paying an average of $231 a year, which adds up to a grand total of $20 billion a year.
“What they may not realize is that every bill includes an add-on fee for their set-top boxes,” wrote Wheeler. “We keep paying these charges even after the cost of the box has been recovered because we have no meaningful alternative.”
Wheeler said that large pay-TV providers, which serve more than 90% of subscribers, will have two years to fully implement the new requirements and medium-sized providers will have an additional two years to comply, while the smallest providers will be exempt.