Updated! Washington, D.C. – Sony Electronics has negotiated an agreement with the country’s major cable operators, which collectively pass over 105 million U.S. homes, to begin producing “tru2way” bi-directional digital cable ready products that will not require a separate set-top box.
The company, which made the announcement in conjunction with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), said the binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the six largest cable companies - Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House Networks on the bi-directional cable initiative will open the doors for similar agreements with the cable MSOs and other consumer electronics companies. It is expected to make bi-directional cable-ready products available to more than 82 percent of U.S. cable subscribers.
Sony and the NCTA said other consumer electronics companies “have been invited to formally join the MOU.”
Sony said the negotiated industry agreement “establishes the fundamentals for a competitive retail market for “two-way” digital cable-ready devices. It addresses how such products will be brought to market with interactive services like video-on-demand, digital video recording and interactive programming guides.”
Consumers will have access to a selection differentiated two-way products at retail and through cable operators from a variety of manufacturers. The agreement includes safeguards to facilitate the development of a robust, two-way retail market and to ensure that cable operators can continue to develop and offer new competitive services.
Sony and NCTA spokesmen also told TWICE that the agreement provides for a certain level of support cable operators will commit to the initiative.
“The MOU is a binding contract between the MSOs and Sony and it does provide for a certain amount of common reliance so that 20 percent of the new set-top boxes that the six MSOs will be using will include tru2way technology in those devices, until there are a total of 10 million of those types of tru2way devices, specifically set-top boxes, in the marketplace,” said Brian Dietz, an NCTA spokesman.
Under 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 tru2way technology at Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs), the cable industry's research and development consortium, Sony said.
A key element of the agreement involved the use of “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, Sony said. Exact details of MOU terms were not released to give other potential signatories time to complete their review of the document.
Commenting on the agreement, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), a senior Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and an advocate 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.”
“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."
The agreement will encourage the development and distribution of interactive and high-value digital content.
“This marketplace agreement is good news for consumers,” said Edgar Tu, Sony Electronics' senior VP of TV operations of America. “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.”
Kyle McSlarrow,, NCTA president/CEO, commented, “This is a landmark agreement which will provide a national, open and interactive platform resulting in more choices of services and products for consumers.”
Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said, “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.”