Streaming Innovation Alliance: Goals and Challenges
BY Yako Molhov
The Streaming Innovation Alliance is a relatively new non-governmental organization set up by leading streaming players to advocate for U.S. policies that would stimulate and not hinder the booming sector of streaming. Greg Saphier, Senior Vice President External Affairs, Motion Picture Association, talked with Yako Molhov about the current goals and challenges faced by the SIA at the start of 2024.
The Streaming Innovation Alliance announced its formation in September 2023. Who are its founding members and which are the companies that have most recently joined the Alliance?
The Founding Members include: AfroLandTV, America Nu Network, BET+, discovery+, For Us By Us Network, Max, MPA, MotorTrend+, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Pluto TV, Telemundo, TelevisaUnivision, VAULT, ViX, and The Walt Disney Company.

We’re open to new members and have received a lot of inquiries from streamers interested in learning more about our work and how they can join. We have nothing to announce at this time but stay tuned.

Greg Saphier, SVP of External Affairs

What are the main goals of your organization?
We have two main goals. Our first goal is to tell streaming’s positive story to state and federal policymakers so that decisions affecting streaming services and their viewers are made with full knowledge of the unprecedented value, diversity, and choice that exist in the highly competitive streaming market today. Our second is to advocate for smart policies that support innovative streaming services and viewers and against poorly thought-out efforts to impose rules designed for very different cable, satellite, or social media platforms to streaming.

We’re grateful for the bipartisan advice and leadership of SIA Senior Advisors, former Congressman Fred Upton and former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, in developing and pursuing these goals.

You are working with platforms, advertisers, and regulatory bodies on creating a healthy ecosystem for streamers. What are the main elements of a healthy ecosystem and what are the main improvements that all players need to work on to reach this goal?
Many of the main elements are in place. One element is the free and open competition with multiple options, approaches, and styles delivering new value and choice to consumers while at the same time giving creators new ways to reach audiences. This should be bolstered by light-touch, forward-looking regulation that protects consumers from unfair practices while allowing innovation and creativity to flourish.

The main improvement we are focused on is ensuring all stakeholders appreciate the ways streaming is different from legacy services like cable and satellite television or tech giants like social media platforms. SIA members don’t use public rights of way or broadcast spectrum and they don’t allow unfettered and unvetted user posts and uploads. Policy solutions designed for those very different services and their unique challenges should not be applied to streaming.

Fred Upton, SIA Senior Advisor

There is an ongoing debate in America whether digital and streaming players like Fubo or YouTube TV should get the same status as cable TV companies. A lot of politicians oppose this move. What is your position on this matter?
We strongly oppose that proposal, which was considered and rightly rejected by the FCC a decade ago – unleashing the streaming boom consumers enjoy today.

Do you accept members only from the States and are you exploring a potential international expansion for the Alliance in the future?
We are focused on US policy and audiences right now. A number of our members operate global services, and we do believe the policies and values we advocate are relevant everywhere streaming services operate.

In September 2023 you released the Streaming Services Survey Research. What are the main takeaways? What do Americans think of streaming services?
The survey shows that registered voters overwhelmingly favor streaming innovation and are wary of proposals to regulate the market. Seven out of 10 voters polled viewed streaming services favorably, with approval even higher among younger voters and in communities of color. While even larger numbers of voters expressed concern about the risks presented by online social media platforms, those fears do not apply to video streaming services and voters are more than twice as likely to trust streaming services with their data as social media networks. By a 2:1 margin or more, voters worry new regulations could require streaming services to collect more data or deter them from offering sensitive programming. And two-thirds fear new rules will threaten diverse and independent services the most.

Mignon Clyburn, SIA Senior Advisor

What have been the major threats and opportunities for streamers and how is the SIA addressing them?
We’ve been active educating state and federal policymakers about the ways flawed proposals like cable-style regulation or local streaming taxes could hurt consumers and set back streaming innovation. Streaming is delivering unprecedented value, diversity, and choice to viewers today so new regulations, taxes and fees rightly face a very high bar. Put another way, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Let’s talk about one of the hottest topics in the past couple of years: artificial intelligence (AI). What are the discussions with your members and partners regarding the technology and its use in streaming?
We have not directly engaged in the AI debate but our member MPA has weighed in with thoughtful comments. MPA’s overarching view, based on the current state, is that while AI technologies raise a host of novel questions, those questions implicate well-established copyright law doctrines and principles. At present, there is no reason to conclude that these existing doctrines and principles will be inadequate to provide courts and the Copyright Office with the tools they need to answer AI-related questions as and when they arise. The Copyright Office has an important role to play in ensuring a careful and considered approach to AI and copyright. At the current time, however, there is no need for legislation or special rules to apply copyright law in the context of AI.

How has the SAG-AFTRA strike affected your activities?
We’re just glad the strike is over and production is ramping back up – which benefits everyone in streaming and the entire entertainment community.

Greg Saphier SVP of External Affairs at the Motion Picture Association, where he oversees the association’s outreach to third party stakeholders. In this role, he educates diverse communities about the creative industries and policy frameworks that support storytellers. Greg also serves on the board of directors of the Copyright Alliance and is an American Council of Young Political Leaders alumnus. Prior to joining MPA, Greg served as senior director of state government affairs for NCTA – the internet & television association, representing the cable industry before state intergovernmental organizations.

“Streaming has taken video markets by storm and totally changed the way Americans find and watch video programming practically overnight. And our Alliance was organized to keep that dynamic, forward motion going – advocating for smart policies that build on streaming’s success and ensure consumers continue to enjoy the incredible value, diversity, quality, and choice they cherish today.”
SIA Senior Advisor Mignon Clyburn

“Decades old cable rules and suffocating franchise fees and taxes that long predate the internet are no way to regulate today’s diverse, connected, innovative new streaming services. American viewers have voted with their remotes and policymakers at all levels of government should reject any new rules for streaming that could threaten innovation, drive up prices, or limit quality, value, and choice.”
SIA Senior Advisor Fred Upton
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