The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today held a hearing examining how advances in consumer electronics, broadcasting, cable, satellite, the Internet and other platforms are changing how consumers access video content, how those changes are impacted by existing regulations, and what type of regimes should apply going forward. In light of technological changes in how video content is distributed and consumed, members heard from witnesses representing the entire supply chain of video content, from owners to distributors, each of whom provided insight into the current state of video, current regulations and the best course of action to allow for consumer access and innovation in the future.
"Existing cable, satellite, and broadcast providers and programmers are experimenting with Internet distribution. Internet-only providers and programmers are also springing up. Regulation is not only unnecessary in such a vibrant environment, it can harm this nascent competition," said Subcommittee Chairman Walden. "The creative chaos in the marketplace is healthy as parties fight to out-innovate each other and win viewers. A vibrant marketplace benefits consumers and generates new jobs. The last thing we want is to shackle everyone's entrepreneurial spirit with one-size fits all rules designed for another time."
"In the communications sector, if you are not using technology to offer new services or cheaper prices, you won't last long," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "If we want to spur investment, innovation and jobs, the time may have come to pull back on the laws of Congress and let the laws of economics do more of the work. Viewers across the country--not to mention our economy--would be better for it."
Michael O'Leary, Senior Executive Vice President of Global Policy and External Affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America, explained how content creators are constantly adapting to ensure their work is readily available to consumers. He said, "We are relentlessly innovating to keep meeting that demand, and the choices available to audiences keep getting better. We welcome and embrace the plethora of new forms of distribution, because they provide us new ways of offering our content to our audience in the manner they want to view our product."
David Hyman, General Counsel of Netflix, discussed how consumers and the economy are benefitting from new platforms and business models. He explained, "Competition leads to innovation and growing consumer choice. In large part because of innovation from Internet players like Netflix, traditional platforms and networks are changing their long-standing ways of doing business."
With regard to consumer access to broadcast video content, David Barrett, President and CEO of Hearst Television added, "Video programming providers, including broadcasters, may also benefit from the deployment of new video distribution platforms. The emergence of such additional platforms could provide programmers with additional outlets for reaching viewers and enhance video competition in the marketplace."
Witnesses also focused on the current regulatory environment and how that affects traditional and new business models, especially with regard to providing opportunities and incentives for industry-wide innovation.
Michael Powell, President and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association explained, "In light of the fundamental changes that have occurred in the marketplace over the last 20 years, Congress should reassess the continued need for these restrictions. A new dialogue is essential because the continued application of outdated rules creates uncertainty and marketplace distortions, encourages unproductive attempts at regulatory arbitrage, and dampens incentives to invest."
"Just as businesses must foster change in a rapidly evolving video marketplace to keep pace with what the consumer wants, government should work to ensure its regulations mirror today's competitive realities, consumer expectations, and advances in technology," added Charlie Ergen, Chairman and Co-Founder of DISH Network.