Sony, Cable Operators Agree On Set-Top Boxes

The memorandum of understanding is expected to spur the growth of two-way interactive cable TV services.
The set-top box as a built-in component of TV sets seems assured for some future televisions after Sony Electronics and the major U.S. cable operators announced Tuesday an agreement that will allow consumers to receive two-way cable services.

The agreement, formalized in a binding memorandum of understanding between Sony and the cable operators, calls for the establishment of competitive retail markets for two-way digital cable-ready devices. The cable companies were represented by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Sony and the NCTA anticipate that the agreement will spur the growth of two-way interactive services, including video-on-demand, digital video recording, and interactive programming guides.

The cable companies signing the MOU include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, and Bright House Networks. Together they serve 82% of all U.S. cable subscribers.

According to the agreement, Sony and the cable companies will adopt Java-based tru2way as the national interactive "plug and play" standard and use it to carry out research and development at the cable industry's research arm, Cable Television Laboratories.

The MOU represents a departure from two decades of friction between the cable TV industry and electronics manufacturers, which have been at loggerheads over the best method of delivering cable services. The NCTA said additional consumer electronics companies are considering signing the MOU.

The current arrangement typically involves subscribers renting a set-top box from a cable company -- a situation that has caused many subscribers to complain about technical difficulties.