The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday that formalized its opposition to the FCC’s proposed set-top box rules.
Under the proposed rules, companies such as Google and TiVo who manufacture their own set-top boxes could access content from multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) without having to set up their own deals with content producers.
The FCC proposal violates “copyright protections built into [cable stations’] advertisements,” said Dan Jaffe, ANA’s EVP of government relations, and if passed, the new rules “would severely harm advertising interests, thereby jeopardizing advertising’s significant support for the content creation and distribution system for TV and cable media.”
When asked if opposing the FCC proposed rules could alienate the ANA from tech manufacturers who would stand to benefit if the legislation passes, Jaffe replied:
“We are technologically neutral. So we don't really care how people receive their programming, as long as that can be worked out in a legal and constitutional manner. So we're not trying to stand in the way of innovation or new technological approaches. ... We're not trying to fight with any other group, or stand in the way of other groups doing reasonable things in the marketplace. But we will stand in the way of anybody who says that our copyright and First Amendment rights are not going to be protected.”
He pointed out that many tech companies felt the ability for OTT boxes to access content should not be constrained by existing contracts. “We find that very worrisome,” Jaffe said.
Given that consumers can already get around having to rent a set-top box by using TV Anywhere apps on their smart TVs or Roku devices, the FCC rules appear duplicative to some industry insiders. On Friday, Robert Aksman, CEO of Hulu’s interactive ad server Brightline, told AdExchanger, “Everything that legislation was intended to do is already happening naturally and on its own organically.”
Although some consumers are already shifting away from renting set-top boxes of their own volition, Jaffe said it’s still necessary for his group to oppose the legislation. “The difference is that when you [download a cable app] you’re not allowed to dis-aggregate the programming,” he said. “You can’t take out various pieces and put in anything you want. You can’t just say, ‘OK, I’m no longer going to be having any advertising here.’”
Arguments in favor of the FCC’s proposed rules note that consumers will benefit by increasing competition and lowering prices. But Jaffe said that even if prices drop and consumers favor the new rules, the FCC’s proposal does not properly address content and sales rights.
“It's fine to try to do something that lowers prices and gives people more options, but you can't do that while violating the First Amendment and taking away the constitutionally protected rights and copyright rights of advertisers and programmers,” he said. “There are lots of things that might save somebody some money if you didn't have to pay any attention to legality.”