Hollywood and the cable industry are reviving their arguments for a regulatory waiver they say will pave the way for MSOs (and other service providers) to distribute films to their subscribers at the same time they’re released on DVD – or even before. 

Representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and top executives of Time Warner Cable met with regulators from the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday to discuss the MPAA’s petition to get a waiver on selectable output control (SOC).

Current regulations prevent cable operators from using SOC. Going through SOC, which would disable the analog signal, is the MPAA’s preferred avenue of protecting its content if it were to release films through MSOs earlier than before.

The MPAA has made the exact same request before but was rebuffed by the FCC, in the face of opposition from both the consumer electronics industry and consumer advocates. The Consumer Electronics Association says the scheme will disable the ability of millions of older HDTV sets that do not have a digital input from accessing content through their set-tops. Consumer advocates argue that the scheme will disable their DVRs, so that films cannot be recorded.

The NCTA last year submitted a document in support of the waiver, arguing that most recent HDTVs and set-tops do have a digital input.

The NCTA also argued: “In addition, the tru2way technology recently agreed upon by numerous cable, consumer electronics and IT companies enables retail devices to operate like HD set-top boxes for receipt of such on-demand, high-value content. In short, a technological platform is now in place to protect high-value content.”

The MPAA and the cable industry are making the case that allowing cable operators to use SOC will enable viewers to get the content they desire sooner – that the ban is in fact the only impediment to the arrangement. Since the arrangement will increase viewer choice, they argue, the FCC should approve the MPAA’s request for a waiver on the SOC ban.

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