Sounds great? Well? yes and no. If you didn?t like the, uh, ?openness? of OpenCable, you?re probably not going to
like IPTV and satellite. At least with OpenCable the consumer stands a chance of having a choice in set-top
What happens when a benevolent dictatorship goes bad?
Whenever I write about the lack of third-party HD-DVRs, I inevitably receive a slew of email gently pointing me to the
HD TiVo, a device DirecTV (the aforementioned benevolent dictatorship) so kindly offers. These emails assume that
somehow I have forgotten about the device. I haven?t; it is simply not a third-party device. It lives at the mercy of
DirecTV and, uh oh, it?s about to die.
On September 8th of 2004, DirecTV announced its intentions to address what many consider DirecTV?s Achilles? heel,
local HD channels. Over the next two years DirecTV will be launching 4 new satellites. These satellites will add the
capacity for both 1500 local HD channels and 150 national HD channels.
In addition to adding raw bandwidth, the new satellites will also mark the beginning of DirecTV?s transition from the
long-in-the-tooth MPEG2 to the soon-to-be-long-in-the-tooth MPEG4. In doing so DirecTV will be leaving current HD TiVos
out of the revolution. So, if not the HD TiVo, then what? The answer lies in the three words that strike fear in the
hearts of consumers and technologists everywhere: developed in house. Gasp! DirecTV will be offering its own ?Home
Much like Microsoft?s ?Media Center Edition with Extenders? or TiVo?s ?Home Media Option?, DirecTV?s ?Home Media
Center? is designed to be its own whole-house system. The fear is, of course, that this product will continue in the
tradition of cable and deliver a product that falls short on usability and features. If (when) this happens, there will
be no third party to fall back on.
Where is the FCC there? Nearly one forth of all premium television users are satellite users. Yet, unlike cable, there
hasn?t been a successful movement to give the consumers the kind of flexibility which OpenCable has the potential to
How do you shoot rockets into the sky without drawing the attention of a regulatory body that would seemingly control
breathing if it were, in fact, digitally transmitted? Beats me, but apparently the answer lies somewhere in that
fetching Australian accent that Murdoch brings to the table.
Coming back to earth
While DirecTV is busy launching satellites, the good people at SBC are apparently relying on a well-placed pun to save
them from the heavy hand of the FCC. Yesterday SBC released a press release suggesting that legislators and regulators
take a ?light-touch? when regulating the emerging IPTV market.
SBC recently detailed its LightSpeed project, a four billion dollar infrastructure investment with the goal of
bringing fiber (a light-based technology) into the homes of 18 million households across thirteen states. This fiber
will be used to add video services to SBC?s existing voice and internet offerings.
SBC is hoping to convince regulatory bodies that its product is all-together different from traditional cable and, as
such, should be regulated differently from the traditional cable television industry. If their lobbying proves
unsuccessful, they will likely need to go through the same process cable does, involving arduous negotiation with local
?In short,? says Lea Ann Champion, senior executive vice president of IP Operations and Services for SBC
Communications Inc, ?we are not building a cable network, nor do we have any interest in being a cable company offering
traditional cable service. Instead, we intend to offer customers a new total communications experience, one that they
can customize to suit their families? needs and tastes.?
While yesterday?s suggestion of a ?light touch? dealt with regulations as they relate to infrastructure, SBC?s
attitude still begs the question: how open will emerging technologies be to third-party products such as TiVos? My
guess: not very. SBC is hoping to offer the same third-party services which Comcast et al. are fighting to retain.
However, SBC is doing so without mandates such as OpenCable. At what point do consumers hope for the FCC to step in?
Or, is that monster too dangerous to wake?
As always, if you have comments or suggestions, feel free to write to
Until next week, save my seat!