• Technology Wins as FCC Approves TiVo Internet Streaming Media
  • September 8, 2004
  • Law Firm: Reed Smith LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • Over objections from the motion picture, broadcast and professional sports industries, the Federal Communications Commission has approved technology that would allow digital recording service TiVo to send subscribers television programming over the Internet.

    TiVo sought permission from the FCC to develop TiVoGuard Digital Output Protection Technology, digital video recorders that allow the transfer, via the Internet, of prerecorded television programs to as many as 10 personal computers registered by subscribers. The technology would allow TiVo subscribers to view TV programming at locations outside the home, such as at second homes or while traveling.

    Although the technology still is being developed and is not yet available to TiVo subscribers, the ability to send programming outside the home or local area has content providers apoplectic.

    The Motion Picture Association of America, the National Football League and the National Association of Broadcasters all objected to FCC approval of TiVoGuard. Representatives of these industry groups stated the ability to send programming beyond the home or local area threatens local advertising revenue.

    In approving the digital output protection technologies, the FCC stated it sought to a balance between the "threat of mass, indiscriminate redistribution" and protection of consumers' use and enjoyment of digital broadcast content. The FCC was unwilling to require controls where other reasonable constraints sufficiently limit the redistribution of content.

    The FCC reasoned that TiVoGuard limits redistribution of protected content to a secure viewing group of devices that belong to the same owner and are associated with the same TiVo service account. TiVo accomplishes this through methods that include encryption and regular authentication of its recording devices. The FCC found those features tilted the balance in favor of TiVo.

    The FCC dismissed as speculative the MPAA and NFL concerns that remote access to programming threatens local and regional broadcast markets. The agency further stated "that these concerns are...irrelevant to our stated goal of preventing indiscriminate redistribution."

    Of the 13 digital output technologies before the FCC for approval, TiVo's was the only one that drew objections, according to media reports. The FCC approved all of the submitted technologies in an August 4 Report and Order.

    Why This Matters: The TiVo digital recording service, which allows viewers to edit out commercials, already has forced advertisers to dramatically alter the way they deliver their messages. The ability to stream programming over the Internet to remote locations further threatens programming models based on local ad revenue. It now appears that technology has the FCC as its latest partner in the assault on traditional models of advertiser supported entertainment. Whether the attack is short-sighted or not remains to be seen.