Cable Lines Up Five Partners On ‘Binding’ Two-Way Pacts

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Two weeks after announcing a breakthrough deal with Sony Electronics to use cable’s two-way technology, the largest U.S. cable operators have reached similar agreements with five other consumer-electronics companies.

Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB), Digeo and Intel have agreed to a binding memorandum of understanding (MOU), which Sony signed on to last month after years of resisting cable’s interactive TV technology.

The MOU addresses how two-way, cable-ready products access interactive services like video-on-demand, digital video recording and interactive programming guides, using tru2way.

Specific terms of the MOU have not been released, while other “potential signatories complete their review of the document,” CableLabs said.

The five CE companies that signed the updated tru2way MOU were already licensees of the technology, previously referred to as the OpenCable Application Platform.

Intel, for example, plans to build a system-on-a-chip that will support a variety of tru2way devices, including digital TVs, set-top boxes and DVRs. 

The cable operators that have announced support for the tru2way platform on their networks are Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks. Those MSOs collectively represent more than 80% of all cable subscribers and 105 million homes passed.

According to Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt, the operator has already deployed almost 1 million devices.

One of the biggest differences with the new tru2way agreement is that MSOs are contractually obligated to support the technology by certain dates. Before, cable operators had provided informal pledges.

By July 2009, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, Bright House are to support tru2way in all their systems. Charter has committed to do so by July 2010.

The deal also includes a common-reliance clause specifying that 20% of MSOs' new set-top boxes will use tru2way until 10 million are deployed, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The cable industry, even as it lines up tru2way supporters, remains open to discussing an “all-provider” solution that would cover cable as well as satellite and telco TV providers, NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said.

The idea, broached last year, “was to explore the development of an ‘all-provider’ solution that would allow providers to make their own technology selection, differentiate their offerings, and use different network-specific devices to connect to plug-and-play equipment using a common interface,” McSlarrow said, according to prepared remarks he was to deliver in a speech Monday at National Press Club.

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