YouTube TV, Fubo, Hulu, & Others Warn The FCC That They Can’t Legally Turn Them Into Cable TV Companies No Matter What Locals Demand





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Last year a major fight started at the FCC between local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC owners and streaming services like YouTube TV. At the core of this issue is whether streaming services should be considered “cable TV” by the FCC and, therefore, regulated like Comcast or Spectrum.

Last week the National Association of Broadcasters announced that in 2024, one of its main goals is to get the FCC to change the rules about how live TV streaming services are regulated. To help stop that This week the Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition that’s members include YouTube TV, Fubo, Hulu, and others like Roku pushed back saying the FCC can not legally turn them into cable TV companies under the law.

This week Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition sent a memo to Cord Cutters News arguing that that even the FCC CHair Jessica Rosenworcel says that is not possible. According to them, under the 1984 Cable Act and the 1992 Cable Act, can not legally turn streaming services like YouTube TV into cable TV companies.

“The FCC has clearly stated it does not have the authority to implement new regulations on streaming services and Americans across the political spectrum strongly oppose regulating streaming services like cable, which would drive up costs, hurt content creators, and restrict the availability of local news.” The Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition said in a memo sent to Cord Cutters News.

So, why are local ABC, CBS FOX, and NBC station owners trying to turn streaming into cable TV, and what do they hope to gain?

In July, local TV station owners formed the Coalition for Local News to push the FCC to force cord cutting services to be treated like cable TV companies. If the FCC agrees to change the rules, it will force YouTube TV, Hulu, Fubo, and other services to strike deals directly with the owners of local TV stations instead of the networks.

Last week the Coalition for Local News, which is made up of 600 local TV stations owned by groups like Nexstar, released a statement demanding changes in how the FCC regulates live TV streaming services.

How are streaming services, like Fubo, fighting back?

That same month, YouTube TV, Fubo, Vidgo, Roku, Paramount, Disney, NBCUniversal, and others formed the Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition to stop this move.

“Cable and satellite regulations were enacted decades ago, long before most Americans had even heard of the internet. It’s almost laughable that the same policies would be appropriate in an era with nearly unlimited viewing options,” the group said at the launch and has since reiterated several times.

This fight is putting local TV station owners, like Nexstar, at odds with network owners, like ABC Disney NBCUniversal’s Comcast. Under the existing rules, ABC and NBC can sign contracts covering all their affiliates—even the affiliates they don’t own—with streaming services like YouTube TV. If local TV stations win, it would dramatically change how the FCC regulates live TV streaming services. Primarily, it would force the live streaming services to negotiate directly with the owners of local TV stations, like Nexstar.

Fubo, Hulu, and other streaming services wouldn’t be able to strike deals directly with Paramount for all CBS stations, for example. Instead, they will need to go to each individual owner of each local TV station. This is what cable TV companies must do, and it is what live TV streaming services will do if the rules are changed.

The group of local TV stations owners argue that this change is needed to protect local news.

YouTube TV and others are pushing back. “Local news thrives under the current system. It took mere months for streaming services to offer local news in every U.S. market, while it took decades for traditional providers to do the same under the old rules and regulations some large affiliates now want to apply to streaming services. Requiring streaming platforms to negotiate carriage individually in all 210 designated markets will lead to less local news available for streaming viewers.”

Would this cost cord cutters more money?

If local stations get their way, it could also mean you will pay more for services like YouTube TV, Fubo, and Hulu + Live TV. If the owners of local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC stations succeed, live TV streaming services would need to pay a $1.23 fee per subscriber every year to cover the FCC regulatory fee imposed on cable TV companies, according to Ted Hearn, a policy expert who had worked for ACA Connects, who posted the stat on X (formerly Twitter). Based on a Leichtman Research Group study that found 13.4 million subscribers to live TV streaming services, the fees would add up to $16.4 million.

Why is this happening?

They are pushing this to ensure local news will be offered on streaming services. But you can’t ignore the money side of the issue. Recently, multiple local station owners have been pushing for increases in carriage fees. Currently, they must accept what the parent networks agree to with streaming services. This rule change would allow them to decline offers they don’t like.

What does this mean for cord cutters?

Local channels have argued the deals they got with live TV streaming services were too low. A change would mean a new round of negotiations for all the local channels, which could lead to blackouts if agreements aren’t made. It could also result in higher costs for streaming services, and potentially higher costs for consumers if they’re passed down. The FCC hasn’t looked at the issue yet, but it’s one on a lot of peoples’ radar.

For now, it looks like local station owners are ready for a long fight to get what they believe will be a better deal for them. The live streaming services are likewise gearing up to maintain the status quo.

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