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As I Was Saying

Getting Ready for the AllVid Smackdown

7/13/2011 2:37 PM

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance, a consortium of consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, plus some other intriguing firms ranging from Sony, Mitsubishi and TiVo to Best Buy, The Shack (née Radio Shack), Nagravision and Google, wended its way through the FCC recently.

Among the tales Alliance representatives told to Commissioners Copps and McDowell and the Media Bureau staff were their interpretations of cable-centric technologies demonstrated at the Cable Show 2011 in Chicago last month.

“There is no indication that the isolated and proprietary implementations of standard techniques, as recently demonstrated, can or will lead to a market for devices that can receive programming and services from more than a single MVPD operator,” the AllVid group said in its ex parte meeting disclosure. The companies’ comments augur the tactics that manufacturers and retailers will use when the FCC finally gets around to dealing with the AllVid rulemaking.

“Unless the Commission proceeds with an AllVid rulemaking as intended in the National Broadband Plan, the markets for MVPD devices and for MVPD programming and services, will remain essentially in the same condition they were in when the Congress enacted Section 629 [of the 1996 Telecommunications Act],” the Alliance argued, sneering at the cable industry’s promise to develop set-top boxes for retail sale.

“With IP-based technologies available, it is anachronistic and unacceptable, as MVPDs move toward IP-based program distribution, for the common ‘fallback’ solution … to be HDMI,” according to the Alliance. Rather, it argues, “in an IP-based era” the common interface should link MVPD navigation through home networks that are “inherently two-way and interactive.”

The AllVid document, which emerged within days of NCTA’s gloat that nearly 30 million CableCard-equipped STBs are in the market sets the stage for the upcoming skirmish over video delivery. And it’s a reminder that TV Everywhere isn’t the only solution to portable video in the IP-based era.

For its part, the FCC seems unhurried in its consideration of AllVid, trying (according to my sources) to take a longer look at the issue in the context of larger video distribution objectives.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com

September