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Sony Supports tru2way

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
5/27/2008
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Stick a fork in DCR+.

Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), a notable tru2way holdout, has signed a deal with several major MSOs that could pave the way for the consumer electronics giant to develop televisions that can feed in "two-way" digital cable services without the need for a separate set-top box.

On Tuesday, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and Sony announced that the CE company had signed a binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for interactive "plug-and-play" televisions that can handle two-way digital services such as video on demand, digital video recording, and on-screen navigation systems. (See Sony Signs Two-Way Deal.) The present plug-and-play agreement can handle only one-way, bidirectional digital cable services without a set-top.

The significance of the deal is amplified by the fact that Sony and six major U.S. cable MSOs -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and Bright House Networks -- negotiated the MOU. Those operators serve a combined 105 million homes and 82 percent of all U.S. cable subs.

Terms of the MOU have not been disclosed, as other consumer electronics companies have also been invited to join the MOU. However, the MOU does call for the adoption of the tru2way platform, which includes licenses for its middleware component (OpenCable Application Platform/OCAP) and the technical and legal elements covering the CableCARD-host interface.

Earlier this month, Samsung Corp. became the first CE company to sign a new streamlined version of the tru2way license, which is administered through Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) . (See tru2way Signs Up Samsung.) The new license also sets the stage for CE firms to "self-certify" TVs, set-tops, DVRs, and other products based on tru2way, which was the centerpiece of The Cable Show last week in New Orleans. (See MSOs Open Up on Tru2way, What Is tru2way's True Potential? , and Cable Makes Big 'tru2way' Play .)

Considering their support for tru2way, Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , and Samsung, are among some of the top candidates for the new, interactive, plug-and-play MOU.

"We are reviewing the MOU to see if it contains anything beyond what we've already embraced," says LG spokesman John Taylor. LG, which has already signed the OCAP and CableCARD Host Interface License Agreement (CHILA) accords, is also evaluating the new tru2way license. LG showed off a tru2way-based TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but hasn't announced a product launch schedule.

Officials from Panasonic and Samsung were not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

But reaching a consensus via a binding MOU with Sony should help cable's cause at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , which has chided the cable and CE industries for being unable to negotiate a two-way plug-and-play deal.

The MOU may also serve as the final dagger in the heart of DCR+, a proposed alternative platform that could hinder adoption of tru2way. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.) Sony, along with Hitachi, JVC Americas Corp. , Pioneer (USA) Inc. , Sharp Electronics Corp. , Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo: 6502), and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) , originally petitioned the FCC to consider DCR+.

"We don’t believe that any FCC action is required for two-way devices to come to retail," an NCTA spokesman says.

Even the CEA appeared to be good with the latest two-way negotiations. "We are pleased that this technical challenge has been addressed through a voluntary, private-sector solution," CEA president & CEO Gary Shapiro said, in a statement.

– Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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