Welcome to the pay TV world, Google. The mighty search company startled a lot of people in cable when it announced its Google Fiber TV and Internet service in Kansas City. The fiber optic service, launched in July, offers consumers broadband speeds of 1 Gb per second, far faster than cable’s typical 5 Mb per second. How could cable and its allies fight that? Google provided a clue today in a letter disclosing what it told several FCC staffers yesterday: They discussed “the importance of being able to provide customers with access to must-have live regional sports programming and the difficulty of obtaining this programming.”
Google reps weighed in as the FCC considers whether to extend or change current rules that require cable companies that own channels to also offer them to competitors including satellite and telco video providers. The rules will sunset unless the FCC acts to keep them alive. Verizon also lobbied the FCC this week, saying that “at a minimum this protection should be retained with respect to must-have, non-replicable programming, such as regional sports networks (RSNs)….Today, cable operators are integrated with some of the most popular networks and control roughly half of the RSNs.”
Time Warner Cable is among the cable companies arguing the other side: It told the Commission recently that the market has become competitive, and consumers might benefit if a cable operator could offer exclusive programming. “For example, a programmer may wish to keep a non-competitively significant local news channel exclusive in order to provide a unique local voice, and may forego creating the service altogether if prohibited from preserving the channel’s uniqueness through exclusive distribution.” The company also noted that it’s unfair to force cable to share programming, but allow DirecTV to exclusively offer its NFL Sunday Ticket.