Deal clears path for two-way digital TVs

Cablers, Sony pact to end technology holdout

WASHINGTON -- The major cable operators and Sony have announced a plug-and-play agreement that likely will break the logjam that has threatened the widespread introduction of two-way digital TV sets in the marketplace.

Under the agreement, Sony will end its holdout for a technology that competes with the one known as tru2way, developed by the cable industry. The memorandum of understanding sets up an enforceable inter-industry agreement that establishes a technology that eliminates the need for a separate set-top box for digital televisions that use the cable industry's interactive service.

The agreement makes it clear that no one company or industry can lock up the marketplace for two-way products at the retail and network levels, according to the National Cable and Telecommunications Assn. and Sony.

The deal could end the FCC's proceeding on the issue.

Edgar Tu, senior vp of Sony Electronics U.S. TV operations, said the agreement sets up "a national plug-and-play digital cable standard for interactive TV receivers, recorders and other products that is transferable and viable wherever you live."

The agreement also received the blessing of Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., a member of the House Commerce Committee who has been active on the issue.

"With this groundbreaking compromise, these industry-leading companies and other major cable companies will ensure that consumers will have broader access to innovative, competitive, cable-ready navigation devices from commercial retailers and will have expanded options to enjoy cable programming, including video on demand and other interactive programming options," he said.

The agreement also likely will get the blessing of the major film studios as the tru2way technology includes copyright safeguards. The MPAA had expressed concerns about the DCR+ technology.