Update: Cable Companies Quash Set-Top Box Rental Reforms

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

No Vote on Set-Top Box Reforms

UPDATE: Cable lobbyists successfully undo set-top box rental reform from the 2016 FCC agenda. No vote will be held. Like a good lobbyist, under Tom Wheeler’s FCC, no major changes were implemented.

In addition to failing to address the rental scheme that is predatory to subscribers, the FCC did not deal with another key agenda item – promoting competition within media business data services.

It’s unclear whether a Trump administration will address set-top box rental reforms, but inside the beltway, many are saying that the FCC will change dramatically under Trump. It remains to be seen if the change will be pro-consumer or pro-cable.

Cable Lobbyists Win Again!

Minutes before a planned vote on allowing third parties to develop apps or devices for, and in place of, rented cable set-top boxes, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed the vote from the agenda on September 5, 2016.

The new plan would require PayTV providers (e.g., Comcast, Charter) to develop a single software app that would allow third parties to rebroadcast a subscriber’s programming options to them through an app or device, thereby ending the cable companies’ long-running rental box bamboozle.

Go inside Netflix's licensing agreement with Relativity Media. Discover values for Relativity's slate of 40+ films released from 2010 to 2016.

Rate Cards for Pay-TV and SVOD licensing agreements between Starz and Sony Pictures Television for past, present and future content.

The FCC’s original intention was to ease the ever-increasing consumer cable costs by encouraging more manufacturers of set-top boxes and other video providers to enter the market including Apple, Google, Amazon, Roku, Hulu, Sony, SlingTV, YouTube, and HBO and dozens of others.

This is the second time since voting on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in February 2016 that the measure has seen a radical U-turn.

The Cash Continues to Flow from the Cow

In one of the longest running rackets, cable companies have been charging customers between $145 and $250 per year to rent set-top boxes. Comparatively, the leading third-party service provider, Roku, charges $30 to own one of theirs without any rental fees.