Macrovision Corp. expanded its reach outside of the United
States, announcing last week that British Sky Broadcasting will activate the
manufacturer's copyright-protection technology on its digital direct-to-home
platform, which is set to bow next month.
The confirmation from BSkyB follows a year-old agreement
between the companies, under which Macrovision's pay-per-view copyright technology
was built into set-top decoders for the digital-DTH service, said Mark Belinksy, senior
vice president of Macrovision's copyright-protection group.
Macrovision's technology enables consumers to view,
but not record, PPV programming. Belinsky said the agreement with BSkyB is significant due
to British legislation that mandates interoperability among the set-top boxes of competing
digital-service providers, whether they be DTH, digital-terrestrial television or digital
cable. What's more, Britain is on the leading edge of implementing digital
"By BSkyB deciding to activate the technology, it
ensures that other providers will all be deploying copy-protection-capable networks,"
Belinsky said, noting upcoming digital rollouts from DTT partnership OnDigital and cable
operator Cable & Wireless plc.
However, while a provider's hardware may be able to
block the recording of PPV and other programming, it is not a given that the technology
will be activated. Among very avid PPV buyers, this could become a competitive factor in
selecting a digital provider.
Operators in the United States have been reluctant to
implement the new technology, fearing a backlash from consumers who have grown accustomed
to taping PPV movies and events. But studio executives, trying to protect their windows
behind PPV, are pushing the anti-copying technology.
A BSkyB spokesman said the company is not worried about
potential consumer backlash because digital technology will enable it to transmit PPV
movies or events many more times than it can with analog, effectively eliminating the need
to record the programming.
"It's not to make things more inconvenient for
the customers: We're making it easy for people to watch the films at any time,"
the spokesman said. "We're contractually required by the studios to provide this
sort of protection with digital PPV."
Belinsky noted that the BSkyB deal carries weight because
the platform is 40 percent-owned by News Corp., which has stakes in DTH operations
worldwide, including Star Television in Asia, SkyPerfecTv in Japan (which has implemented
the technology) and Sky Latin America. There is also speculation that the company may
become a DTH player in Continental Europe and the United States.
The company's 20th Century Fox film unit, like other
studios, is also a backer of Macrovision's copyright-protection technology, he added.
"News Corp. has a worldwide footprint," Belinksy
said. But he clarified that the other platforms in which the company has a stake have not
indicated whether or not they will activate the technology.
Other international providers that have activated
Macrovision's PPV protection include DirecTv Japan and Hong Kong Telecom. And at
least eight other pay TV providers in Europe, the Pacific Rim, Latin America and the
United States have deployed Macrovision technology in their end-user equipment.