WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Comcast took one giant leap toward killing the set-top box. The company launched its Xfinity TV Partner Program, which will allow all Comcast TV subscribers to watch video programming on their smart TVs, streaming media players, and other connected devices — without having to lease any set-top boxes. This announcement comes only two days before initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s February NPRM, proposing rules that would require video providers to open up their programming to be used on set-top boxes from third-party providers.

The FCC has proposed an elaborate way to ‘Unlock the Box’ by regulation, but the market has responded with a simple solution to do what consumers really want — Eliminate the Box,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “Regulators always lag behind technology, but usually, it doesn’t become obvious how behind they are until years of litigation. Today’s news shows why the FCC’s approach has been unnecessary from the start. This isn’t some kind of last minute ‘Hail Mary’ pass by industry made only under pressure from the FCC — this must have started at least early last year, and it’s being done by industry to cut their own costs, reduce hassle for consumers, and compete with increasingly popular Internet-only services. That’s why video providers united last summer to propose an apps-based model to the FCC — which Tom Wheeler simply ignored.”

The FCC’s proposal isn’t really about making TV easier for consumers or moving past the box,” said Szóka. “Indeed, it could slow video competition by hamstringing new over-the-top services with new regulatory mandates. It’s really about trying to unravel the contracts and copyrights of video programmers. That may sound like a good idea to copyright-skeptics, but it threatens to upend the business model that has produced the Golden Age of Television. Most of all, it threatens small and independent programmers. That’s why many minority programmers are up in arms — and why Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have insisted the FCC should have done basic economic analysis about how unbundling content would affect diversity in media. Sadly, neither the FCC nor the President seem to care. As with net neutrality, this issue has nothing to do with serving consumers and everything to do with ideology and picking market winners and losers.”


We are available for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See our other work on video markets:

  • Our statement on the FCC’s rushed NPRM on regulating set-top boxes
  • Our statement on the FCC’s announcement on unlocking the set-top box market
  • Comments from TechFreedom, ICLE, and CEI urging the FCC not to regulate online video providers in the same way as cable
  • Comments urging the FCC to approve the merger of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable without conditions