Amazon, MLB urge caution in FCC move on Web TV

Amazon is warning federal regulators not to saddle its upstart video service with new regulations by treating it like a traditional cable service.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in the midst of a process to extend the rights and responsibilities of cable and satellite companies.

ADVERTISEMENT

But shaking up the process “could impair the success” of the current “thriving” market, Amazon warned in a comment filed this week. The online shopping giant offers thousands of streaming videos and has produced its own shows such as the award-winning "Transparent," starring Jeffrey Tambor.

“In light of the excellent results achieved over the last several years, Amazon does not see why the commission would risk interfering with the [online video] marketplace, which is still growing and changing, at this stage in its development,” it added.

The agency heard a similar warning from Major League Baseball, which has distributed live games through the Internet for more than a decade.

“As a leader in the online video distribution ... market, we do not believe that such regulation is warranted,” the league’s media company told the FCC. “The better course is to continue to let this emerging market develop on its own.”

The FCC has announced plans to redefine its regulatory category for cable and satellite TV companies, which could open the floodgates to new kinds of online television.

The rule change would allow online companies to buy rights from programmers such as Disney or Fox, just like traditional television providers. However, it would also subject those companies to new requirements, which critics say could hinder their growth.

AMC Networks, which has emerged as a powerful producer of popular TV shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” warned in comments that the change “will unnecessarily unsettle the emerging online video programming market ... and interfere with affected programmers’ First Amendment rights.” 

The rule change would only apply to online companies that offer multiple channels streaming live on the Internet.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that the update will bring the commission’s 20th century rules into the present, and other supporters say it would level the playing field for new companies.

The advocacy group Public Knowledge said that the move would ensure that the FCC’s policies are “technology neutral and pro-competitive.”

Online video is “still dwarfed” by traditional cable services, it said in comments

“Something is holding the development of the online video marketplace back,” it said. “By creating regulatory parity between traditional and online video distributors, the FCC can at least remove one of those barriers.”