U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The State of the Television and Video Marketplace,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. The hearing will examine how television programming and the delivery of video content have evolved over the past decade.Witnesses will discuss how new entrants in the video marketplace and the development of digital programming and streaming services have impacted consumer viewing habits and preferences. The hearing will also examine existing laws governing the video marketplace and their role in fostering access to content and promoting competition, localism, and diversity of viewpoints.
- The Honorable Michael Powell, President, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association
- The Honorable Gordon Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Broadcasters
- Mr. Craig Aaron, President and Chief Executive Officer, Free Press
- Mr. David Kenny, Chief Executive Officer, Nielsen
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*Note: Witness added on 5/31/19
*Note: Witness removed on 6/4/19
Chairman Roger Wicker
Americans are living in the Golden Age of television. We have never had more choices and access to video content. The days when viewers had to be home at a certain time to watch their favorite shows are gone.
The television experience is increasingly moving away from dependence on fixed schedules, channels, programming lengths, and the confines of the family living room. With the development of over-the-top technology, digital programming, and streaming services, consumers now control how, where, and when they watch television and video content.
The growing availability of high-speed internet access underlies the disruption of the traditional TV industry. Internet connectivity has ignited an explosion of new video offerings on a variety of platforms and devices. Live, scripted, and unscripted video programming and user-generated content is now readily available on computers, tablets, smart phones, gaming consoles, and social media platforms. As a result, Americans are able to access and watch television anywhere they can get a sufficient connection online.
I hope the witnesses today will discuss the impact of rising digital and online video services on consumer viewing habits and preferences, as well as the effects of growing access to content.
Internet access has also spurred changes in the ways video content is offered and packaged. This has led many to “cut the cord” for subscriptions to traditional pay TV offerings in exchange for online video services — and I am kin to some of those who cut the cord.
For example, viewers can now purchase “skinny bundles,” or scaled-down selections of pay TV channels, that more closely align with their preferences. Content is also available on-demand through subscription-based offerings that provide uninterrupted, ad-free viewing, as well as so-called “freemium” models, wherein the service is available free-of-charge with intermittent advertisements. The growth of these offerings is delivering a more personalized and less expensive television experience.
This morning’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss how television programming and the delivery of video content has evolved over the past decade, particularly within the broadcast and cable television industries. I would also like to ask witnesses to address how new entrants into the video marketplace are transforming traditional television business models while increasing competition and consumer choice.
As technology continues to advance and transform the television industry, this hearing provides an opportunity to examine existing rules and policies governing the video marketplace.
Many of the rules, which are contained in the STELAR Act and the Cable Act of 1992, are intended to promote competition and access to content. This is especially important for rural areas, where many individuals live beyond the reach of a broadcast signal. These laws have also played a meaningful role in fostering localism and viewpoint diversity. But, despite an increasingly competitive video marketplace, consumers sometimes face higher bills for video content, programming blackouts, and lack of access to the most relevant programming due to market restrictions.
Our witnesses today will, no doubt, address their views on existing laws and policies governing the video marketplace. I also hope the witnesses will discuss how Congress should modernize these laws given the context of which options and services are available to the viewers.
Television and video programming industries are important sectors of the economy. They are critical communications mediums that create jobs, distribute information, drive commercial activity, and entertain. Through quality content and services, television and video programmers provide a voice to many perspectives that serve the interests of the viewing public every day. This brings our communities closer and empowers our citizens.
So, I look forward to a thoughtful discussion today.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, too, will try to be brief this morning so we can hear from our witnesses and possibly get some questions in before our 11:00 votes today. But thank you for holding this hearing and thank you to the witnesses for their insights on the ever-changing content market and delivery system.
Obviously billions are being invested in new programming and new production and there are many more options for consumers in the ever-expanding world of content. Entertainment is at our fingertips whenever we want it, including this hearing, Mr. Chairman, being seen, I’m sure, by many people.
So much of the content in so many places, and we obviously love the notion that we can watch it when we need the content and content information. But how has this innovation in the television and video market impacted consumers? How are they better off and what are the challenges that we face in continuing to protect their interests?
The committee must engage, I believe, in a robust debate about how we’re going to foster true localism, diversity in competition, and fidelity to the public interest as we work on various issues when we move forward.
Not so long ago, most of us watched TV for free over the air. At the time our eyeballs were rented to watch a lot of ads to pay for that content. And we understood what that meant, and we understood what the public interest meant. But as we have changed into this larger picture, how has the heart of localism and diversity and true media competition been maintained?
So these are the issues that, I think, we will be pondering with as we look at issues of broadcast and cable industry, and the changes people are imposing. The FCC’s desire to strip away basic rules that would ensure that companies play fairly in a marketplace, or dismantling of rules that preserve the diversity of content and media ownership, particularly impacting, I believe, in a negative way, the number of voices that we need to have in media. And also an impact in key issues.
Consumers still trust local broadcasters. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 76% of Americans trust their local news a great deal or a fair amount more. So I want to make sure that we’re understanding how the public interest here is being served in this debate that sometimes can seem, discussions about big business behemoths as opposed to the consumer and the content that they are after.
The cable industry led the charge to eliminate the FCC’s strong net neutrality rules that help ensure that consumers are guaranteed by rule to have unfettered access to new online video content, and now the industry is asking the FCC to further eliminate its public interest obligations, including those that could potentially force localities to choose whether to keep public education and government access channels on the air.
So I hope all these issues will be discussed this morning, and I again thank our witnesses for being here on this very important public policy debate.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Gordon SmithPresident and Chief Executive OfficerNational Association of Broadcasters
Mr. Craig AaronPresident and Chief Executive OfficerFree Press
Mr. David KennyChief Executive OfficerNielsen
The Honorable Michael PowellPresidentNCTA – The Internet and Television Association