Cable And Hollywood Fight Having Their Gatekeeper Status Taken Away

from the inevitable-is-coming dept

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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 2:11am

    Funny...

    I wonder where the haters are.. maybe there bedtime. But its quite funny when Mike makes a perfectly good point there oddly silent about his piracy-enabling activities.

     

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  2.  
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    IronM@sk, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 2:25am

    There, Their, They're Test

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 2:52am

    The point that's raised again and again

    ... and they still don't understand it: why is legit content still inferior to the pirated version?

    Anything digital that I purchase should be allowed to make its way to every electronic device in my house, including multiple computers, cellphones, my now-redundant mp3 players, gaming consoles, etc.

    Every time someone comes up with a new way to make their content more readily available and easy to use, the entertainment companies jump all over immediately, riddling it with DRM or regional restrictions and other stupidity until everyone just decides to "pirate" themselves an actual useful version of whatever it is they purchased. It takes even less effort to start cutting out the meddling middleman.

    It's as if the entertainment industry came across an O. Henry-ish factory second genie in a bottle who granted them one wish (to be rich) but with an unfortunate side effect (incredible stupidity).

     

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  4.  
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    Blatant Coward (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 3:00am

    Re: Funny...

    Skaters gotta skate!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 3:21am

    Re: The point that's raised again and again

    Or, even simpler, bind it to an account that can be accessed from any device that logs in, from anywhere. that solved the regional windows issue, and if you lose the information, you can purchase a second account for only $5. That's an incentive to remember.

     

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  6.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:06am

    Re: Funny...

    Please explain what activities Mike does that enable piracy. Reporting on how Hollywood doesn't want to acknowledge the Internet and stay in the past doesn't help me download movies.

     

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  7.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:10am

    Re: Re: Funny...

    bit tired myself when I wrote that. I meant good point and they are oddly silent.

    As for the enabling part it is one of there biggest gripes when trolling. They seem absent in articles that make a point.

     

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  8.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:25am

    Re: The point that's raised again and again

    "... and they still don't understand it: why is legit content still inferior to the pirated version?"

    Exactly! I don't want to wade through their crappy commercials. I just want to watch the movie. I don't think the studios realize just how much resentment this one thing has caused among consumers, and while they might get a small upfront boost in cash from them it's costing them in the long run.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:38am

    Re: Re: The point that's raised again and again

    sounds like DRM to me, ill stick with the lion tamer if i were you

     

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  10.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:59am

    Ditch cable!!!

    A week and a half ago, I purchased a Roku box (there are a few models, and comparable set top boxes...I got this one for the very reasonable price of $80, and $16/month for Netflix and Hulu+) I fell in love with the thing immediately. It's better than cable television, because you don't have to remember to record everything you want to watch. On hulu, you subscribe to shows, and they are in your queue the morning after they air. Netflix gives you the backlogs of old seasons, and many many movies to stream instantly. There's also the option of Amazon OnDemand, which is pretty darn expensive per show, but includes all the shows that are not yet available on Hulu that I watch...Netflix even streams the Starz series Spartacus (both seasons). After canceling my plan with my cable provider to ditch the TV and Home Phone (which I didn't even have plugged in anyway...) I'm SAVING a net of about $120 PER MONTH, and I am enjoying my TV watching experience much much more. I got rid of cable TV and became a happier consumer...that is what the cable companies are afraid of. They have been ripping people off so badly for so long, and they do not want their cash cow to die because people realize just how unhappy they were...

     

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  11.  
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    Rich Fiscus (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 5:57am

    So Sony is trying to undermine themselves?

    Sony is the only company that owns a major studio, a major record label, and a major consumer electronics company which puts significant emphasis on patents as part of their business model, including owning a larger share of the Blu-ray patent pool than anyone besides Panasonic. Not to mention the fact they're on the other side of a bunch of the content deals the NCTA mentions. Yet somehow we're supposed to believe they're trying to undermine the IP they consider to be basically the core of the entire company? That's like claiming Intel is trying to devalue microprocessors or accusing Toyota of trying to destroy the new car market.

     

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  12.  
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    Jared (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:19am

    Afraid of competition

    The piracy issue is a red harring, it's not even a particularly good one, thats why it sounds so insane. The cable co's (much like apple, though not nearly as slick) have built a walled garden, this walled garden provides protection from competition.

    The average person sees their TV as serving one function, displaying what comes out of the cable, to them it's effectively a dumb display, and thats how the cable co's want it. Many people even plug their TV's power to their set top boxes and use the set top box's volume control.

    Once that garden wall comes down the consumer is going to have a lot more options, they'll all be in once easy to access interface. They might just find that services like Netflix are good enough and they no longer have a need for their $70-100/mo cable subscription. This is what the cable co's are truly terrified of. Just read back what they say but replace pirated with competitive and it'll all become clear.

    Translated:
    "our content will be presented alongside Hulu, Netflix, etc (services that feature similar content)," MPAA warns. "In essence, this 'shopping mall' approach could enable the consumer to switch from cable co's which up until now have had a (government subsidized) monopoly, causing us to loose a ton of money."

     

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  13.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: Re: The point that's raised again and again

    Perhaps, but it's a lot less intrusive than, say, having to have a constant broadband connection to even play - or having a rootkit installed.

    Steam is wonderful for this attitude, excepting that you can only install the game on one computer at a time.

     

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  14.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:49am

    Re: Ditch cable!!!

    > It's better than cable television,
    > because you don't have to remember
    > to record everything you want to watch.

    ???

    That's what a Tivo is for. You tell it what you want to look for and it does the grunt work for you.

     

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  15.  
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    chris (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re: The point that's raised again and again

    and while they might get a small upfront boost in cash from them it's costing them in the long run.

    you just answered your own question.

    there is no long run, and while the incumbent players won't vocalize it, the writing is on the wall.

    at my most cynical i think that the incumbents have strategic planning and football ass backwards. you just can't run a company a quarter at a time.

    at other times i get a bit optimistic and think that this is a last ditch grab for dollars before the inevitable restructuring.

     

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  16.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:52am

    Re: Afraid of competition

    "Translated:
    "our content will be presented alongside Hulu, Netflix, etc (services that feature similar content)," MPAA warns. "In essence, this 'shopping mall' approach could enable the consumer to switch from cable co's which up until now have had a (government subsidized) monopoly, causing us to loose a ton of money.""

    Re-Translated:
    "Please stop this! we don't want to be just dumb pipe providers."

     

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  17.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Ditch cable!!!

    Tivo still requires the expensive cable subscription, and Hulu+ provides recommendations based on what you've already subscribed to as well... Delete something from your Tivo: it's gone, watch something from your queue: it's not in your queue anymore, but the service still has it available to you should you want to pull it up again. Commercials are much much less invasive, and my favorite part about them is that they provide a count down until the show returns. I could go on and on about the benefits i've seen, but I really thought the ability to be a bit lazier about TV and the significantly lower price point would have been enough.


    Also, did you read that Tivo is shutting down service in the UK to customers that it wants to upgrade but don't feel the need on their own?? A company like that is definitely not one I would want to do business with...and especially if I would have to pay for Tivo service above and beyond my already far too expensive Cable service.

    What else you got?

     

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  18.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    The MPAA and NCTA are rapidly approaching WHINER status. You know what they say about them that protest too much. They must have something to hide and will not stand scrutiny.
    It happened to the Music Industry. I heard the horror stories from friends in the 70's about Managers Trademarking a bands name that was hot at the time and then taking all their money and putting them on salary. In those days it cost 6 dollars to trademark a name in California. Yea the abuses abound because of the laws. It works in the individuals favor only if they know the laws.
    The point is that you can only steal from the people for so long and eventually it will come back and bite you. You know biting the hand that feeds you.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    I'm on their side...

    I feel like I am basically stealing my shows from U-Verse and the studios already because I can just turn on the tv/box and just start watching! No need for a user name/password or anything like that! How is that supposed to stop anyone I didn't specifically authorize from watching once they enter my home! Boo this free-for-all society! We need more complexity for our own protection, and more specifically for the good people who generously ALLOW is this content for a very reasonable (probably too cheap) price.

     

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  20.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    Re: I'm on their side...

    I recently just switched to streaming only (see above comments by me) and only ever needed to use a user name and password when I first set it up. To me, that's still better than waiting around during a 4 hour window for some guy in dirty boots to show up and plug the box into the wall for me...

     

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  21.  
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    Rich, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The point that's raised again and again

    Actually Steam lets you install the game on as many machines as you like, but you can only be logged into one machine at a time. The BAD thing about Steam is they could cancel your account tomorrow and all the money you spent on those games just when down the drain.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 7:59am

    The biggest issue I suspect is that cable / sat / DTH providers depend on the box in your house to be the "security door" to their network. All of the signals are there, the box controls what the end user sees.

    When you remove the box, suddenly these guys are in trouble, because they lost their control over content delivery. They no longer can add or remove content, and they are depending on a third party box (likely more easily hacked) to provide security for their networks.

    It's a fail.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re: Ditch cable!!!

    You know most cable companies offer their own DVR and not Tivo right? My HD DVR from my cable company does none of the grunt work you must set series to record on your own. After that you are good for any future new episodes but you also have a $100 cable bill to go with it and a limit of how much you can record.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    They lost control over content delivery? Changing the box means it no longer comes through those cables? Um, so who is delivering it? Is it sent out in vans or something?

     

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  25.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re:

    "They lost control over content delivery? Changing the box means it no longer comes through those cables? Um, so who is delivering it? Is it sent out in vans or something?"

    He is saying the cable box. Not the connection itself.

    The van comment is funny-sarcastic though.

     

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  26.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Ditch cable!!!

    My wife is having a bit of trouble with her DVR right now.

    She has a certain series all set to record (it's reruns - not new material) and the DVR records the episodes just fine, except when it's done recording it immediately deletes them from the hard drive saying that they had expired like it does 24 hours after recording a PPV. It records other series just fine.

    Very annoying to have a system that allows a party outside of my home determine what to delete from my hard and even more so when they apparently cannot correctly set the flags right.

     

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  27.  
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    Brandon (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ditch cable!!!

    I feel your wife's pain. That happened to me one time too many so I ended up putting together my own PVR with a spare server and some Hauppauge HD encoders. It was expensive to start and I'm still paying up the nose for my Comcast subscription but it's still the only way to access all the content I want to watch the way I want to watch it. I've even got a program running that strips commercials out of my recordings. Soon, very soon, I think I'll be able to go all online and my hat is off to those that have already cut the (television) cord.

     

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  28.  
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    crade (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Everything you say in the article is true, standards are great and people love them. That isn't what cable is arguing against though. They aren't trying to prevent anyone from creating a standard and using it, they just don't want to be forced against their will to comply to the standard.

    Theoretically we shouldn't need regulation to force anyone to conform to a standard when they would like to be allowed to make such business decisions themselves. Competition should do that for us. The lack of such standardization in the existing should be an indicator for new players to set one up, move into the market and kick their ass.

     

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  29.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ditch cable!!!

    The time will come :-) I used to think the same way, that I'd be missing something if I cut the TV cord, and that held me back for a while. Finally a friend convinced me that "needing it now" was a really bad reason to pay so much to the cable company, and that it would eventually come to Netflix, commercial free, with the whole season available at once instead of having to wait a week between episodes. For the shows not yet on Hulu+, I decided waiting was the only way to let the providers know that I'm sick of cable, and it became a very reasonable price to pay, considering how much money I'm saving. Rock on with that homebrew PVR though, with that and perhaps Boxee's software or box, cutting the TV cord could be sooner than you think! :-)

     

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  30.  
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    Mystik (profile), Feb 16th, 2011 @ 5:27pm

    There is always more ...

    The reality of all of this is about losing revenue streams. If you look at the entire eco-system you can see what each fears.

    At the top is the content owners (not the creators) who demand money from the Networks in exchange for the content (some networks own the content), those networks then go back to the cable companies to demand money to display the content across their customers.

    Everyone is greedy, So they all push to make as much as they can.

    The Cable cos keep giving in to the Networks, which makes the Networks more likely to come back for more cash next time. They cannot stand their ground as the customers will be incredibly upset at the loss of this channel and take it out on the Cable co. So round and round we go and up and up go the prices.

    Choices? Really?

    Look at the pricing for Cable, Satellite, or U-Verse/FiOS. There is really no difference. No Competition at all because they are all offering the same content. The content owners / Networks control the costs. They also all rely on the lucrative 'Monthly Box Rentals'.

    Who don't Cut the Cord?

    The average person sits at home oblivious to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, or other Streaming Services. Why is that? Well first, These services are not offered in the Cable/Sat/U-Verse boxes, but offered directly through limited On-Demand offerings of their own so they don't see these options. Second, The average person has no clue how to use any of these services, what they need to access them, or if they can do it with what they have. So Cable/Sat/U-Verse is "Easy" and hassle-free.

    If a new Set-Top box were to come into these peoples homes two things would happen. First, They would not need to pay the outrageous 'Monthly Box Rental Fee'. That would put pressure on the Cable/Sat/U-Verse profits. Second, They would realize there are many other cost effective options to chose from that are as "Easy" as what they have.

    Cord Cutters Unite!

    More and more people would begin to leave expensive cable/sat/U-Verse for OTA/Netflix/Hulu. It would start out slow, but gain traction pretty quickly. Any company that relied on these revenue streams to survive would be in real trouble.

    What goes up must, eventually, always come down...

    The value of content has been driven up and up by Owners, Networks, and Cable/Sat/U-Verse companies over the years. All done via artificial scarcity, region blocks, exclusivity and other means can they can. Choice and competition are the mortal enemy of the entire current eco-system. As people leave the old system for the new system that will put pricing pressure on the entire old system forcing the value down. This is something all parties in the current eco-system don't want.

    Who's afraid of the Big Bad Netflix?

    You cannot miss the stories of the clash of the titans on TD. Netflix, RedBox all bumping heads with 'The Wood'. 'The Wood' don't care about Cable, Satellite, U-Verse, RedBox, Netflix or anyone else. They only care about being able to extract the same or greater revenue than they have now. They are only trying to protect the revenue stream that are available. If they could extract the same revenue out of Netflix, they would screw Big Cable over in 5 seconds.

    --

    As an aside, I cannot see how any pro-copyright person can come to TD and support any of the current system.

    Think about this for a minute. All this info has been presented before, just not in such a 'at-once' style.

    Take a movie I seen in the theatre maybe 15 years ago. Let's take a simple window break down.

    Theatre Cost was around $6.00
    2 Rentals adds $10.00
    Buying the VHS Tape was somewhere around $13.00 (just using an average)
    Buying again on DVD $20.00

    That's $49.00

    Now if I wanted to buy it on BD that would be $30
    And if I wanted a (Piece of C&*p) SD Digital Copy $15.00

    Now we are at $94.00 for the *same* piece of content!

    Note:
    I am unsure of the current PPV/On Demand windows if they still exist before DVD release or not. So that may alter this with newer theatrical releases.

    Now let's look at alternate Revenue streams the owners get that the consumers don't really fully see.

    They license content to Pay-TV channels like HBO/Showtime. Months later they make it to TBS/TNT and eventually other channels and worldwide channels. We pay for all that in our cable bill. Those channels are all bundled so we don't really have a choice! Never mind about Netflix/hulu other streaming revenues, Nor all the sales of DVD's to RedBox.

    All this one the exact same piece of content. It's kinda funny all the people supporting this type of system would most certainly stand up and protest if the same type of system would be put into other aspects of life.

    Can you imagine going to the store and seeing a brown wrapper labeled "Designer Blue Jeans 32x32", you could not open them to see what they were, try them on, and or even return them! You only can use them yourself and can never sell them or borrow them to anyone else. This example can certainly be taken further, but I believe people will understand.

    We have no need for Cable Companies, Networks, or virtually any the old system today.

    Remember when creators used to create because they wanted to express an idea, opinion or point of view to everyone. I bet no one here does, because those times have long since past. Now we have reduced creators down to creating not what they want, but only what is able to enrich the bank accounts of Owners, Networks, Cable/Sat/IPTV companies (Tax Collectors) at the expense of the creators.

    Think long and hard about what you support and what you believe. Supporting *real* Artists instead of Gatekeepers, *real* Musicians instead of Middlemen, *real* Visionaries instead of Networks, and *real* Innovators instead of 'Tax Collectors'. Else all Art will be gone forever! All that will be left is over-commercialized reality TV! I, for one, don't want that.

     

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  31.  
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    Migzy, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Do you really think Sony is pushing to create cable boxes that can access any and all cable channels that are on the wire subscribed to or not? They aren't, they are pushing for a standard communication method/security/etc that all cable providers and cable boxes will provide. This would allow for you to go out, buy any validated cable box, plug it in, and have it work. This would among other things, allow the integration of cable boxes into TVs so as to allow them to decode the encrypted HD, instead of requiring an external box, heck they could even put a mass storage device in the TV too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 8:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But by definition, would require everyone to use the standards set forth by sony, rending all the current boxes obsolete, and also requiring the cable companies to completely change their head ends and encryption and control methods.

    2 weeks later, some guy get the fake Sony dude to each back the crack code, and everyone in the world has free cable.

    Yeah, it sounds like a really, really good plan.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 8:50pm

    Re: There is always more ...

    When you trade one cord for another cord, or trade one boss for another boss, you are still in the same place. You didn't move forward, you promoted yourself laterally.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 12:14am

    If holocaust denial is illegal in Europe, we should make conflating copyright infringement with counterfeiting illegal here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Mystik (profile), Feb 18th, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: There is always more ...

    Basically you're cutting the 'TV' Cord (If you have DSL & Cable it would be removing a cord, else a service) while keeping a 'Dumb Pipe' network connection to your home.

    You're removing the fixed choice boss 'TV or Cable Service' for a boss you can live with. Your entertainment choices are virtually limitless.

    That's most definitely not a lateral move, but a big step forward.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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