Man Bites MSO
In case you haven't heard, Kansas City, Mo., resident Matthew Meeds is throwing the book at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) because he feels he's forced to rent a set-top from the operator in order to obtain premium digital services.
The suit, which is seeking action-class status, according to the Kansas City Star, alleges that linking premium services to the rental of a cable box "established illegal tying arrangements."
Interesting argument, but one that probably won't stand a snowball's chance when it's fully scrutinized and viewed under a lens that shows what other options are already available today…and will be in the not-so-distant future.
Today, Meeds could go out of his way to buy one of those unidirectional "plug and play" televisions or TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes and have them outfitted with CableCARDs…and then hope those tuning adapters make it to market posthaste. (See CableLabs Stamps SDV Tuning Adapters .) Nothing doing. He'd like to buy a set-top from a supplier of his choosing. According to the paper, he also argues that Time Warner Cable promotes its own boxes "as superior." If anything, we imagine Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Time Warner Cable's biggest set-top supplier, might be pleased with that description.
"I think that for most people, if they could buy the box, they would," Meeds said. Sure, if that was indeed true. But, for argument's sake, let's say it is. All of those TV and set-top makers that are already on board with tru2way should start stretching their legs right now. They'll need to be limber if they expect to execute all of those cartwheels on the way to the bank. (See EchoStar Inks Tru2way Accord , tru2Way Tallies Two More, and More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way.)
I also wonder if he's heard of two very small, under the radar satellite TV service companies that go by the names of Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV). Last I checked, their customers are required to use set-tops supplied by the service provider. Is he going to go after them on sheer principle? If Meeds really believes what he says, then perhaps he should. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)? AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)? Why not put them in the crosshairs, too?
Oh, right. There's been lots of talk in recent weeks about renewed interest in an "all-provider" solution that would encompass all shapes and sizes of video service providers. (See NCTA Counters Verizon's Tru2way Claims .) Just drop me a line when that puppy's ready for prime time. I'll hopefully be the one helping his oldest son pick out a college. What's that? Oh, he turned five years old last week. Thanks for asking.
In other words, Time Warner Cable, one of tru2way's champions, is much closer to achieving the ideal Meeds is seeking than the telcos and satellite TV service providers are at this point in the game.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News