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US: TV providers back “Ditch the Box” proposal

In meetings at the FCC, representatives from US pay-TV providers and independent, minority-owned TV networks discussed an alternate path forward in the debate over the FCC’s proposed set-top box mandate.  The proposal calls for allowing pay-TV customers to “Ditch the Box” by requiring major TV providers to offer downloadable apps, built on an open technology standard, that would be widely compatible with a broad range of customer-owned devices – from smart TVs and game consoles to tablets, phones, and low-cost streaming video boxes.

The ‘Ditch the Box’ proposal would end the need for customers to rent boxes from their providers, would allow for any hardware manufacturer to build devices compatible with providers’ apps, and would allow customers to search for video content from both pay-TV and streaming services through devices’ integrated search interfaces.

Critically, the proposal accomplishes these goals without allowing devices to ignore negotiated licensing agreements, undermine copyright, or bypass consumer privacy protections – and unlike the FCC’s flawed proposal, the “Ditch the Box” plan won’t require costly re-engineering of delivery networks or result in customers needing an additional government-approved box in their home.

The ‘Ditch the Box’ plan is explained further in an ex parte notice summarising the discussions with the FCC, and in an additional letter that was submitted to the FCC by the independent programmers who pitched the proposal.  Additionally, the Future of TV Coalition has published an outline and FAQ with further information about the plan.

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