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Did CES Herald New Paradigm Changers?

Although tablets, 3D TVs of various stripes and new IPTV platforms dominated much of the hype during last week’s International CES, two of the biggest potential paradigm changers for home and personal entertainment almost got lost in the shuffle.

I’m talking about separate announcements from both Sony and Samsung on plans to integrate  broadband delivered Time Warner Cable TV service into their respective TV offerings, and the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem’s (DECE) public unveiling of UltraViolet — a virtual content-locker system designed to promote flexibility of use of purchased video content across multiple devices.

In both situations, the announcements were long overdue. In the case of Time Warner, the announcement means cable TV operators will finally be competitive with each other across markets, in addition to satellite TV providers, telco TV services and emerging streaming video services.

In the case of UltraViolet, a content locker that entitles purchasers to buy a title one time for playback on a wide variety of platforms, from disc players to handhelds,  keeping access to content simple and flexible is more critical than ever. At the same time, the system should enable owners of whole networks to enjoy the latest technology without fear of breaking the law by circumventing legally protected encryption systems.

Conceivably, both Internet-delivered cable service and a video content-locker system should also help to reduce the extraordinarily high price of getting and viewing content in the home, by opening the door to new levels of competition.

Whether or not the price of content is ultimately reduced will depend on the content rights holders, but if they truly want to reduce piracy and promote new purchases of movies and TV shows, studios would serve themselves well to keep content affordable. Teens and young adults, who represent a plum portion of the viewing audience, remain challenged to find jobs, disposable income is becoming increasingly scarce (despite what the economy spin meisters say), and access to illicit, free content has never been so easy to come by.

For both concepts to work, the public will also have to be thoroughly educated, since the purchase of content rights instead of physical products will be hard for many to understand.