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FCC says: No Selectable Output Control for now

Our friends at Ars Technica are reporting that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has declined to accept the MPAA's request to allow selectable output control flags in streaming content during his tenure.

This is an undeniable win for consumers, as potentially up to 20 million HDTVs could have suddenly stopped working for new on-demand movies had the FCC gone the other way. Some outlets, like the Mark Cuban/Steven Soderbergh collab 2929 Entertainment, and Comcast/IFC, are already using "day-date" release schedules that have simultaneous releases across theaters and on-demand.

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Selectable output control in a (YouTube) nutshell

We just produced a two-minute video on selectable output control, entitled “Selectable Output Control: How the MPAA wants to break your TV (again)”. It’s a quick summary of what SOC is and its potential effect on home entertainment devices.

Check it out on YouTube.

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It ain’t FUD if it’s true.

In last week's post, I discussed the MPAA's petition for waiver of the FCC's ban on selectable output control (SOC).

At the end, I suggested that one possible outcome is that a content provider could shut down ALL your existing standardized output plugs, forcing you to buy a new TV, DVD player, and DVR with a special "MPAA-approved" connector plug in order to view their content.

To some people, it might have sounded like FUD, but this time the truth comes a little close for comfort.

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Movies and movie theaters… together not-so-forever?

Hot on the heels of the MPAA's petition for waiver of the selectable output controls order by the FCC comes… movie theater owners? (PDF)

Right. They're worried that streaming feature films direct to homes sooner than ever (but still one to two months after an exclusive theater release) could spell "the destruction of neighborhood movie theaters across the country" and "have a devastating effect on… consumers of motion pictures". Them's fightin' words, Billy Joe!

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Selectable Output Control? Sounds good, but who’s doing the selecting?

On May 9, the MPAA filed a petition to waive the FCC's ruling against selectable output control (SOC) (PDF). The MPAA and its studio constituents seek to allow multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) — that is, cable companies — the power to turn off the digital and analog outputs on your devices, as they choose. This includes not only cable boxes, but also anything connected to your cable signal, such as your Tivo, your Slingbox, or even a TV using CableCARD.

The MPAA and its studio constituents are interested in releasing theatrical releases to home viewers earlier than ever, possibly because box office receipts are growing at a slower rate than in the past decade. Before, release windows for video-on-demand and pay-per-view became available approximately five months after the theatrical release.

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