Hello Again: Selectable Output Control, You Odd Duck


What’s oldie, newbie and weirdie all in one? Answer: “Selectable Output Controls.”

It’s old, because it dates back eight years, as a side argument to the “plug-and-play” negotiations between cable and consumer electronics.

It’s new, because it resurfaced on May 7, when the Federal Communications Commission agreed to grant a waiver (as it had said it would) for a new business model that interrupted one of the early tenets of that “plug-and-play” agreement. Translation: The waiver gives movie studios the right to try a new distribution window - sometime after theatrical release, but before DVD.

What’s weird is its wording. For starters, as an acronym, “SOC” more predominately means “system on a chip,” a very big deal in the electronics universe. Plus, it’s just hard to get your head around a noun (”output”) positioned as an adjective.

The easiest way to explain it is from the perspective of an actual movie title. Say that’s you. You’re the movie. You’re a great movie! Your creators spent a small fortune on you, partially in the hope that you’d make a killing in theaters, then along the predicable and long-established distribution window of airlines, on-demand, DVDs and Redbox.

Thing is, you want a way into home theaters. Most are tricked out well enough to showcase your beauty. There has to be a chunk of time in which you could make a killing as a premiere, less the gas to get to the theater, the babysitter and the $10 box of Sno-Caps.

Problem is, you don’t want to be stolen on the very night you meet the world.

Mostly, titles like you get stolen because settop boxes still straddle the analog and digital worlds. At issue are those unprotected analog spigots, like component connectors, available on those boxes connected to in-home HD screens. They still produce a pretty good picture for the pirate who is sitting there, catching (and copying) you over an unprotected output.

Your answer: Be gone with those leaky, porous analog spigots! Put a tag in your metadata, which can be captured by the navigation system/guide. Your “SOC” tag tells the box to turn off the vulnerable analog spigots when somebody opts to play you in your fancy new distribution window.

Great idea. Easier said than done. More on that another time.