FCC Said to Consider Rules to Help Web TV Get Shows

U.S. regulators looking to spur competition in pay TV are considering steps that would give new Internet video services access to cable and broadcast shows, according to a person briefed on the plan.

The Federal Communications Commission, under Chairman Tom Wheeler, is preparing a proposal to help so-called over-the-top TV -- multichannel services that seek to offer live programming via the Web -- said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Gaining rights to popular channels has been a major hurdle for online TV services. Sony Corp. and Dish Network Corp. are among the companies considering Web-based services to compete with traditional cable and satellite operators and have been negotiating for networks like Nickelodeon and ESPN. Intel Corp. abandoned plans for a service and sold the startup OnCue business to Verizon Communications Inc. in January.

FCC action could grant the new services the right to buy programming owned by cable companies, and possibly to feature television broadcasts, the person said.

The change would affect online video providers that offer a cable-like programming service on a schedule, and not on-demand services like Netflix Inc., the person said.

FCC Proposal

The proposal, first reported by the trade publication Multichannel News, would tentatively conclude the online companies are entitled to certain advantages that regulators give to multichannel video providers, such as cable companies and satellite-TV providers.

The FCC proposal asks whether the online companies should have rights to negotiate for signals from television stations, the person said.

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment. Bob Toevs, a Dish spokesman, declined to comment. Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to messages left after normal business hours.

Bloomberg News reported on Sept. 11 that both Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox Inc. are in talks to supply Sony with programming for a planned Internet-based TV service.

Disney and Fox would join Viacom Inc., which said a day earlier it will provide 22 networks, the first time the media company, headed by Chairman Sumner Redstone, has made its shows available for a Web-based service. The deal covers live and on-demand programming, Viacom and Sony said in a statement.