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No new tru2way deadline for MSOs

Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:56am
Mike Robuck

After missing the deadline on Tuesday, there isn’t going to be a new one for the five cable operators who signed a memorandum of understanding with some of the leading consumer electronics companies.

One of the terms of last year’s MOU was that Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision and Bright House Networks would have network support for tru2way in the headends that serve all of their digital cable systems by July 1.

For a variety of reasons­, including the downturn in the economy and the digital TV transition for broadcasters, none of the five MSOs met the requirement.

To borrow a phrase from the iconic movie “Meatballs,” “it just doesn’t matter” that the cable operators missed the deadline.

By all indications, the CE companies that signed the MOU, which include industry heavyweights Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and LG Electronics, are OK with the MSOs not hitting the deadline.

Collectively, the cable operators serve 80 percent of the cable subscribers in the United States, while the CE companies make up the vast majority of HDTV sales in the nation.

After establishing a new level of trust over the past year, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said there would be no new tru2way deadline for the MSOs to hit in regard to getting their headends ready for tru2way.

Since the MOU is an agreement between the cable operators – which also included Charter, but it got a free pass on the July 1 requirement until the same date next year – and the CE companies, there’s no fine or other penalties for the MSOs missing the deadline.

The MOU was designed to give the cable operators and CE companies a “common reliance” platform for interactive TVs and set-top boxes, as well as to bring the former combatants together on a mutually beneficial goal.

NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg stressed on Monday that the main point was that the cable operators and CE companies were working in lockstep on tru2way after previously being at odds.

Clearly there’s a benefit for both sides to get tru2way to work, but until the cable operators have tru2way deployed across their footprints, the CE companies won’t need to get their tru2way boxes and TVs into retail markets.

Goldberg made that clear in Monday’s interview when he was speaking of the CE companies that signed the MOU and when he was referring to the Consumer Electronics Association.

The CEA had previously advocated the use of DCR+ instead of tru2way to the Federal Communications Commission, but Goldberg said DCR+ has been dead in the water ever since Sony threw its weight behind tru2way.

“The CEA has expressed some concerns about the licensing of tru2way that we’re trying to work out with them,” Goldberg said.

As for the MOU, the main point isn’t the missed deadline, but rather the collaboration and cooperation between the MSOs and CE companies.

“Everyone who is involved with this thing, whether it’s on the cable side or on the CE side, understands what is happening,” said Bill Check, the NCTA’s senior vice president of science and technology. “Certainly throughout all of this process we’re working closely with the CE companies, so there’s collaboration and consultation there.”

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