Do 20 million HDTVs matter?

November 19, 2008 ,

Remember Selectable Output Control? It's the issue where the MPAA petitioned the FCC for the right to turn off any and all of the outputs on your cable box — especially those pesky high definition analog connections — if they move up the Video-on-Demand (VoD) release date on movies. In our original filing opposing the petition, we cited an article which said that 11 million HDTVs currently in use have only analog inputs, and would surely be cut off by the MPAA. News Corp shot back, saying that according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), there were only 4 million such TVs out there. Who's right? Apparently, neither of us. Yesterday, CEA filed a letter with the FCC saying that there are over 20 million HDTVs currently in use which only have analog inputs, and if the petition were granted, would “no longer function as they did when originally purchased by U.S. consumers.”

That's not all, of course; these numbers actually underestimate the problem. Not only will HDTVs with only analog inputs not be able to view this content, but anyone whose receiver, DVR, Slingbox, or other home entertainment equipment relies on high definition analog will be cut off. If that wasn't enough, the MPAA wants the ability to turn of the digital outputs as well, giving them the potential to cut off everyone who owns a current TV. And finally, lest we forget, there's just three months until the DTV transition hits the airwaves. Now is not the time to add to the consumer confusion which we already know is coming. And it will never be the time to give content producers veto power over consumer electronics or punish early adopters by disabling their equipment.

Read the letter or check out our issue page for more about why granting this petition is a bad idea.