Matthew Lasar has a nice writeup about how the big cable lobbyists, NCTA, and movie studio lobbyists, MPAA, are fighting as hard as possible to stop an FCC proposal
to create a standard, called AllVid, that would allow any consumer electronics maker to tap into their content (legally, and for those actually subscribed), and display it via the device. Right now, of course, if you get cable TV, you're limited to the hardware they give you, which means if they don't want to let some other manufacturer come in with a more innovative system, you're stuck. Google -- who is pushing its Google TV product, and Sony, who has a variety of plans for set-top boxes, would prefer a standard so that they can sell you the boxes, and you can access the TV content you're already subscribed to, along with wider content from the internet.
But, if there's one thing that's become clear over the years, it's that gatekeepers will go to amazing lengths to keep those gates in place. So while the FCC seems very interested in moving forward on such a standard, NCTA has announced that it will pretty much destroy all of civilization:
Sony/Google are asking the Commission to ignore copyright, patent, trademark, contract privity, licensing, and other legal rights and limitations that have been thoroughly documented.
Of course, almost none of that is actually true, but boy does it sound impressive. Sony and Google aren't asking for any of those things. They're simply asking for a way that they can provide devices that can tap into an account holder's legally authorized content, and add additional services around it. Think of it like a Carterphone for cable TV -- meaning that you no longer have to get your phone from AT&T, but can buy a third party phone.
But, of course, even the MPAA is against that, as it's siding with the NCTA with a "but... but... piracy!" argument that also makes no sense:
"legitimate MVPD and online content sources will be presented in user interfaces alongside illegitimate sources (such as sites featuring pirated content)," MPAA warns. "In essence, this 'shopping mall' approach could enable the purveyor of counterfeit goods to set up shop alongside respected brand-name retailers, causing consumer confusion."
Yes, think about what you're reading for a second, and then shake your head at the level of confusion coming out of the MPAA. They want to block an FCC plan to make it easier
to access authorized and legitimate content, because it's also easy to access pirated content. In the MPAA's twisted view of the world, it's better
to leave just the pirated content as easy to access, because if the authorized content was just as easy to access, people might think it's legit. Are they really serious over there?
Who knows where all of this will lead, but the key thing that becomes clear in all of this is that cable does not want to give up its gatekeeper status. Even though a system that would better integrate cable content with additional internet content would clearly be a benefit to consumers, it would also mean a loss of gates, and we're dealing with yet another industry that incorrectly thinks it needs gates to survive. So, rather than add value to the consumer experience, it's actively fighting against it.