How Television Can Evolve Past the FCC

Garrett Summers | United States

On the Joe Rogan Experience, Joe Rogan and Brendan Schaub discussed the kinks with the launch of ESPN+ and UFC events. They also talked about how not everyone has a television that can connect to the internet, but it is apparent that the US is moving in that direction. They said it was likely that ESPN saw this too and decided to start their streaming service now so that the bugs would be worked out by the time the consumers are more able to access this kind of content. What they did not to elaborate on was what this meant for cable and satellite providers. Once the majority of Americans are able to access the internet via their televisions, it is possible for television stations to broadcast their own content without the cable middle man or the FCC.

FCC Regulations

Currently, television is regulated by the FCC and with that comes a long list of rules and regulations put out by this regulatory body. These things include licensing requirements, restriction on what the FCC deems “obscene, indecent, or profane”, and commercial limits. Television packages are also expensive. The average cable package cost $64.41, with most basic packages being more than twenty dollars. The bundles generally do not let you select which channels you receive, driving down your bang for your buck. For these reasons, I think television providers will gradually make the switch to providing internet-based services.

The FCC was has had its regulatory power since 1934. Not all the responsibilities given to the FCC were bad. Specifically, the FCC was tasked with preventing television providers and channel from censoring speech. This was an understandable concern. Television stations can now move away from the television providers and possible censorship  (and thus the FCC). By using the internet, television stations could broadcast live and recorded television directly to the consumer from their website. Nothing, besides the delivery method, would change. Imagine, you can buy a monthly subscription to each station you want and none that you don’t.

The Saturated Market of Television

The number of television stations is much greater than the number of television providers, causing a more saturated market and more competition. More competition would drive the prices down as each individual station would be vying for our dollars. A small monthly subscription supplemented with ad revenue should keep each subscription relatively low.

ESPN+ and Streaming Services

An example of television moving in this direction is ESPN+. ESPN started their own monthly subscription streaming services. The price is only $4.99 a month (but also has ads) and streams live sports, as well as archive some event for later viewing. Stations that do not stream live events could take a similar route as HBO. With HBO GO and HBO Now, consumers can view the latest episode as it airs, and watch archived previous episodes. This would be a very powerful move for television stations, as they could move away from the FCC into the much more deregulated market of the internet.

As a supporter of free markets, I believe this shift towards internet distribution model gives television stations more creative freedom. The FCC has little power in the internet realm and would not be able to regulate the content of television. Stations would not have to worry about algorithms like YouTube creators because they would be broadcast from their own site. They control the content. Overall, moving past conventional television providers and regulatory bodies would improve the quality and cost effectiveness of television.

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