FCC Unleashes Selectable Output Control

This is another one of those bad news, good news stories. The bad news is that the Federal Communications Commission has caved in to the movie industry's demand to disable the component video interface on high-def devices. The good news is that the studios can use this so-called selectable output control only under very specific circumstances, to protect fresh video on demand titles.

Via cable or satellite providers, content owners can invoke SOC for certain movies--but only for 90 days and with titles that have never been released on BD or DVD. This would allow studios to distribute hot titles via VOD without having to worry about analog interfaces being cracked by pirates (the fact that pirates can crack any DRM-protected interface seems not to have occurred to them).

To enjoy these fresh VOD titles, you'll need an HDMI-equipped display. Now that HDMI is universally used in new displays, and has been for some time, that means the majority of HD households will get their high-def movie fix--but owners of older HDTVs, some of which use analog component video as the sole HD-capable input, will not.

The folks at Engadget HD (see link below) look on the bright side: "The reason the FCC granted this partial waiver was because the content affected isn't currently available to cable and satellite anyways—in other words consumers who own older HDTVs, without HDMI ports, don't currently expect access to these movies. So for those with older hardware nothing changes, and for those with the latest and greatest, you'll be able to rent newer movies from home."

See FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order via Engadget HD.