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AllVid battle heats up

Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:30am
Brian Santo

Consumer electronics (CE) companies recently sought to enlist the FCC to aid their efforts to wrest greater control of electronic program guides from multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs); yesterday, the cable industry attempted to block the maneuver.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) filed a request with the FCC on Jan. 26, and the NCTA filed a response on Feb. 8. The exchange was another paperwork skirmish in the battle over AllVid, the proposed product meant to succeed the failed CableCard.

In its January letter, the CEA, joined by Google and Sony, asked the Commission to adopt "technical standards that enable any device to present a unified interface," combining the content from MVPD services, non-MVPD services and home network content.

The CEA asked for rules that would require MVPDs to disassemble the programming, data and program guide metadata used to create and provide each MVPD's service so that each consumer electronics (CE) manufacturer may remake them into a service of its own design. (This is the NCTA's characterization of the request. The CEA was unable to supply CED with a copy of its letter by press time.)

The consumer electronics industry believes it needs the rules to break MVPD's control of the market.

The NCTA fires back that the CE industry's claims are "without merit." It argues that video is becoming readily accessible on Internet TVs, tablets and smartphones, and Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players (and other devices).

The market is creating the opportunities the CEA and its members seek – and much more rapidly than anyone expected. There is no justification, the NCTA argues, for rules likely to stifle market innovation.

In its ex parte filing with the FCC, the NCTA wrote: "Sony/Google want much more, which will yield much less for consumers. They seek a Commission mandate for CE device manufacturers to extract piece parts of a multichannel offering for each CE manufacturer to remake into a service of its own design, as though each MVPD were a wholesale distributor of all content in all windows for delivery to all devices on every platform. Such a mandate would not only violate the affiliation agreements and intellectual property licenses under which multichannel programming is obtained and retailed, but it would also stunt the innovations that are taking place to provide consumers flexible access to content that programmers are incented to offer."

The NCTA notes that MVPDs have joined with CE companies such as Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, TiVo, and even Sony itself "to combine the worlds of retail devices and MVPD service" – essentially the aim of CableCard and AllVid.

The NCTA goes on to accuse Sony and Google of "trying to convert only MVPDs into wholesalers, undermining their very business.

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