Sony, Top Operators Reach ‘Plug And Play’ Solution

Sony Electronics and the six-largest cable operators have signed an agreement that will allow consumers to purchase two-way TV sets that can receive interactive digital and high-definition video services without set-top boxes.

Sony and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said the terms of the agreement are contained in a binding memorandum of understanding negotiated by the vendor and Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks.

As part of the agreement, the parties will adopt the Java-based Tru2way solution as the national interactive "plug-and-play" standard; new streamlined technology licenses; and new ways for content providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, information technology companies and cable operators to cooperate in evolving the solution from Cable Television Laboratories, the industry's research and development consortium.

“This marketplace agreement is good news for consumers,” said Edgar Tu, Sony Electronics senior vice president of TV operations of America,” in a statement. “A national plug-and-play digital cable standard for interactive TV receivers, recorders and other products that is transferable and viable wherever you live is ideal for today's mobile society.”

Added Consumer Electronics Association president and CEO Gary Shapiro: “We are pleased that this technical challenge has been addressed through a voluntary, private-sector solution. We look forward to working with our cable colleagues to ensure Americans across the country have access to high value cable content while using the equipment of their choosing.”

The agreement, according to the parties, encourages the development and distribution of interactive and high-value digital content. Key elements relate to the deployment of a platform for "write once, run anywhere" applications, and to the incorporation of secure digital interfaces that protect consumers' home recording rights along with copyright owners' rights to secure their digital content.  Detailed terms of the MOU have not yet been released, while other potential signatories complete their review of the document. 

The move received the endorsement of Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the leading advocates in Congress for new technology and consumer freedoms said:

“I congratulate Sony and the major cable operators for achieving consensus on a set of core principles that will speed the introduction of new two-way plug-and-play devices.”  Boucher said in a statement. “With this groundbreaking compromise, these industry-leading companies and other major cable companies will ensure that consumers will have broader access to innovative competitive cable ready navigation devices from commercial retailers and will have expanded options to enjoy cable programming, including video on demand and other interactive programming options.”

Noted NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow: “This is a landmark agreement which will provide a national, open and interactive platform resulting in more choices of services and products for consumers.”