With a vote to free cable boxes from the stranglehold of cable providers, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler may have triggered a battle royale between media companies of all stripes.
In Washington this week, the FCC voted 3-2 to move forward with efforts to open up the cable box-top market in order for streaming services like Netflix or Amazon to offer alternative technology. In other words, consumers can conceivably channel surf between cable news and House of Cards—all through a third party device that prevents them from being locked into a service provided by a cable company.
The FCC will now allow the public to comment on the situation before proceeding with a formal vote later this year. If the decision is upheld, observers say the brave new world could herald a big shift for the American media landscape.
Right now, "the titans, being the programmers and the distributors, control a closed echo-system. Digital companies want in on that as it is an enormous opportunity for them. Methuselah Advisors Managing Partner John Chachas told CNBC's "Fast Money" last week. Internet giants like Google also covet access to a cable ecosystem "that now remains largely closed," he added. That may be changing, and cable providers aren't the only ones at risk, Chachas added.
The vote is likely to be met with strong resistance from companies currently operating in the closed sphere of cable set-top box technology, he said. "The people that have already flocked to oppose this rule-making include 21st Century Fox, ABC, CBS and The Motion Picture Association of America."