| WASHINGTON, Sept 7
WASHINGTON, Sept 7 The top U.S. communications
regulator plans on Thursday to unveil a revised plan to allow
about 100 million pay TV subscribers to replace expensive
set-top boxes with less-costly apps that provide access to
television and video programs, two people briefed on the plan
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler
proposed in January opening the $20 billion cable and satellite
TV set-top box market to new competitors and allow consumers to
access multiple content providers from a single app or device.
The plan, aimed at breaking the cable industry's long grip
on the lucrative pay TV market and lowering prices for
consumers, drew fierce opposition from TV and content providers,
including AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.
The FCC has said Americans spend $20 billion a year to lease
pay-TV boxes, or an average of $231 annually. Set-top box rental
fees have jumped 185 percent since 1994, while the cost of TVs,
computers and mobile phones has dropped 90 percent, the FCC has
The pay TV industry raised concerns over copyright, content
licensing and privacy issues and made a counterproposal in June,
offering to commit to creating its own apps to allow consumers
to watch programs without needing to lease a box.
Wheeler's revised plan is expected to include some
components of the pay TV industry's proposal, and to exempt some
smaller cable providers from the new requirements. The plan is
also expected to create a licensing body to oversee the pay-TV
apps, according to industry filings with the FCC.
The revised application-based proposal is expected to come
before the five-member commission for a vote on Sept. 29 at the
commission's next meeting, the sources briefed on the matter
Kim Hart, a spokeswoman for Wheeler, declined to comment.
Disney, CBS, Viacom, Time Warner Inc, Scripps
Networks Inc and others met with Wheeler aides last week
to discuss "a revised approach... that would ensure that all of
programmers' valuable content would remain inside of, and under
the control of, apps developed exclusively by" cable and other
pay-TV providers, according to a filing with the FCC this week.
These companies fear that rivals like Alphabet Inc
or Apple Inc could create devices or apps and insert
their own content or advertising in cable content.
Wheeler's January proposal would create a framework for
device manufacturers and software developers to produce a single
device or app to gain access to content from providers such as
Netflix Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Hulu, Alphabet's
YouTube and a pay-TV company.
Wheeler has an aggressive agenda in the final months of the
Obama administration. He wants the FCC to finalize a proposal to
ensure privacy for broadband Internet users by barring providers
from collecting user data without consent. He also wants to
complete reforms of the $40 billion annual market for business
data services known as special access lines.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)