Hollywood Taking On Starz Encore SVOD Deal

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Hollywood studios are asking federal regulators to reverse benefits Starz Encore Group LLC gained in the adoption of rules that would allow consumers to attach digital-TV sets to digital-cable wires without set-top boxes.

In comments filed Dec. 29, the Motion Picture Association of America asked the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its classification of subscription-video-on-demand under so-called plug-and-play digital-TV rules adopted in September.

After a tough lobbying battle, Starz Encore boss John Sie persuaded the FCC not to force SVOD in the "copy never" category, as called for in the private agreement reached by major cable and consumer-electronics firms.

Instead, the FCC classified SVOD as an "undefined business model," protecting Starz Encore in its quest to develop SVOD in a liberal copy-protection regime. Sie lobbied the FCC that a copy-never restriction would damp consumer interest in SVOD and perhaps doom the service as a business model.

In its comments, the MPAA said the FCC should not have lifted the copy-never restriction, saying that the agency "unnecessarily tampers with the unvarying decision of the content-distribution marketplace that SVOD requires the full range of possible encoding schemes, up to and including ‘copy never.’"

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