First-Run Movies in Your Living Room, But Hollywood Controls TV Sets
May 8, 2010
(ChattahBox)—- Much like the opening of the 60s science fiction show,“The Outer Limits” you will lose control of your television set, in exchange for a “great adventure.” The landscape of how and where we watch first-run blockbuster movies is about to change, for better or worse. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission will now allow Hollywood to beam newly released movies directly into our living rooms before they go to DVD, but there is a catch. The motion picture industry has approval to control the equipment on your TV sets to block recording. Is the move the wave of the future, or a consumer, “big-brother” nightmare? Is the “great adventure” worth the loss of control?
Approval of the FCC petition, allows the Motion Picture Association of America to use blocking technology for 90 days, once the on-demand movie is offered, or until the release of the DVD, whichever comes first.
How does the blocking technology work? The “selectable output control” technology would disable video and audio outputs on set-top boxes to block recording of a movie, while it’s still playing in theaters.
But consumer groups are wary of empowering an outside corporate entity to control a viewer’s own TV and other equipment.
Public Knowledge, a Washington-based public interest group, said “We are disappointed that the [FCC] has succumbed to the special-interest pleadings of the big media companies and ignored the thousands of letters from consumers.The order allowing the use of ‘selectable output control’ will allow the big firms for the first time to take control of a consumer’s TV set or set-top box, blocking viewing of a TV program or motion picture.”
But the motion picture industry argues that viewing habits are changing, with many consumers preferring the convenience of watching movies at home. The use of blocking technology allows theater owners to survive, by preserving ticket sales, which would be severely impacted by the piracy of a film still playing on the big screen.
But we could see a day when movie theaters become obsolete:
“Hollywood studios are preparing for the day when they can debut “event” movies directly into the home, charging a hefty premium for a special showing. Studios are eager to experiment with shorter release “windows” to keep up with the changing habits of consumers, who want to see movies on big-screen TVs or portable devices without waiting months for the DVD or video-on-demand release.”
The industry’s’ control of our TV sets, for now, is limited. But who knows what the future holds. This is just the beginning.
Meanwhile, let’s relive for a moment, the very creepy and prescient opening of the Outer Limits, which always frightened the bejesus out of me as a little girl:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.”