NCTA Prez Refutes Charges Over TV Everywhere ‘Collusion’

NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow today issued an extended rebuttal to charges from consumer watchdog group Free Press that TV Everywhere initiatives stemmed from collusion among cable programmers and distributors to stifle competition in the online video market.

Based on a report it issued entitled TV Competition Nowhere: How the Cable Industry Is Colluding to Kill Online TV, Free Press called for an investigation by federal antitrust agencies and Congress into the anti-competitive nature of TV Everywhere programs.

Arguing that the cable incumbents are using TV Everywhere as a way to “preserve the current market structure and prevent disruptive competition,” the group also chides the industry for not including online-only distributors of content. “By design, this plan will exclude disruptive new entrants and result in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers,” the report claims.

In arguing against Free Press’ claims that TV Everywhere would lead to less online video competition, McSlarrow writes that the group has things entirely backward, and that the initiative “is an effort to ensure more content than ever is distributed over the Internet at no extra charge to consumers.” But more importantly, the NCTA prez called the claims of collusion hooey, saying “the TV Everywhere concept involves a multitude of competing program networks, most of which distribute their content on competing cable, satellite, telephone and online platforms.”

Of course, given all the different stakeholders it’s difficult to see how the different operators could have colluded, especially since each of them has different plans for what their TV Everywhere service is going to be like. Rather than put the power in the hands of the incumbent cable operators, McSlarrow argues that the online distribution of content on TV Everywhere is decided by content programmers that make the decisions about what is put online and how. “So, Free Press is really complaining about the decisions content owners make as to how their content should be distributed,” he writes.

While McSlarrow spoke up for most cable operators, Time Warner issued its own statement to refute Free Press’ claims: “Time Warner is committed to providing consumers who subscribe to cable, satellite, telephone or other multi-video platforms with more value for their money, by allowing them to watch their favorite shows when they want to watch them on both their TVs and over the Internet at no additional charge. That is what TV Everywhere is, and it is quite plainly beneficial for consumers. We will also continue to pursue many other ways to distribute in a safe and secure way over the Internet our content to people, whether or not they subscribe to a video service.”